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Planning to take an Election Day selfie? Think again.

Molly Solomon
Molly Solomon

In the age of the selfie, we’ve grown accustomed to documenting every part of our lives, including who we vote for. But as HPR’s Molly Solomon reports, posting a photo of yourself this Election Day, could land you in jail.

According to the state’s office of elections, photography at polling places is banned. A report from the Digital Media Law Project shows Hawai‘i is one of 35 states where filming or photographing your marked ballot is illegal. "A lot of these laws and regulations didn't envision smartphones and social media," says Rex Quidilla, spokesperson for the Hawai‘i State Office of Elections. "This is not an issue we've had to face until very recently."

Quidilla says taking a picture in a polling place is in the books as an election offense. He says while it is considered a misdemeanor, most officials will let you get by with just a warning. "With the exception of media access, we try to keep the polling place free of any interference."

Quidilla says taking photographs could open up the possibility for voter intimidation and bribes. "Possible coercion of voters having to prove that they voted a certain way," says Quidilla. "That is one of the main concerns we have, that photography may be used as evidence."

"I'm probably a traitor to my generation for saying this," says Colin Moore, a professor of political science at UH M?noa. "But I actually think it's a good law." 

Moore believes the statute is meant to maintain the integrity of the voting process. "One of the reasons we have a secret ballot is to prevent things like vote buying and voter intimidation. And although that's obviously not the intention of most of the people taking pictures of their ballot or the polling place, it opens up that possibility."

But Moore does see the value in sharing the voter experience on social media platforms. He says, seeing your peers participate in the democratic process could be an important tool to encourage others to vote. "People vote because they see their friends vote. It creates an excitement around voting," says Moore, who believes there's probably a way to maintain this without snapping a selfie at the polling place. "If the elections office were smart about it, they could designate a place right outside the polling place where you could encourage people to take selfies and let everyone know that they voted."

But for now, Hawaii voters should head into their polling booths today armed with a pen or pencil…and not their cell phones cameras.

Molly Solomon
Molly Solomon joined HPR in May 2012 as an intern for the morning talk show The Conversation. She has since worn a variety of hats around the station, doing everything from board operator to producer.
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