A Colorado senator and a student are suing to make “ballot selfies” legal

2 min. read
Ballot envelope selfie. (Andrew Kenney/Denverite)

State Sen. Owen Hill and a University of Denver student hope to make it fully legal for Coloradans to post photos of themselves and their completed ballots.

To do that, they have filed a lawsuit, the Durango Herald reports.

The ballot selfie (belfie, according to me) (Ed. note: No, Andy, that's a different thing) became a topic of much Colorado consternation last week when Denver's district attorney warned voters that such images are illegal. A state law forbids voters from showing a finished ballot in a way that reveals "its contents."

The lawsuit is aimed at the offices of Secretary of State Wayne Williams and Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, arguing that the ban should be declared unconstitutional and unenforceable.

"If it were not for Colorado law, however, Plaintiffs would engage in taking ballot selfies in future elections ...," the lawsuit states, arguing that the ballot selfie is a "unique way" of expressing political views that "cannot be adequately replaced by using mere words to speak a similar message."

The potential punishment for publishing a belfie is a fine of up to $1,000 and potentially a year in jail, the lawsuit states. (The Denver Post has published a copy.)

Hill is a Republican from Colorado Springs. His co-plaintiff, Scott Romano, is an 18-year-old University of Denver student living in Littleton, according to the court filing.

The law in question dates to 1891, according to the secretary of state's office. Similar prohibitions on ballot selfies were struck down in Indiana and New Hampshire. The Colorado Secretary of State's office is defending the ban as a necessary defense of democracy, basically arguing that ballot selfies could be used as proof in arrangements where votes are bought or coerced.

Meanwhile, I still haven't seen a case of anyone actually charged for ballotography in Colorado, and neither has Lynn Bartels, spokesperson for the secretary of state.

"Number of cases DA Mitch Morrissey prosecuted in 2014, when there were plenty of election selfies: O," she wrote in an email.

"His office put out that notice because of all the press calls asking if it was illegal. That said, no one we’ve talked to can recall any prosecutions."

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