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“Ballot selfies” case headed to federal appeals court

people in voting booths
Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio
Voters cast their ballots in Michigan

Michigan is appealing a court order that blocks the state’s ban on Election Day “selfies” with ballots in polling places. A federal judge ruled earlier this week the “ballot selfies” ban violates First Amendment free speech rights.

The state says it’s late in the game to be changing the rules. The election is now less than two weeks away.

“If the order stands, we will have to develop new policies and procedures about when photography is allowed in a polling place, and when it’s not, and then communicate all of that to 30,000 election workers, in addition the millions of voters who will head to the polls November 8,” said Fred Woodhams, a spokesman for the state Bureau of Elections.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and Secretary of State Ruth Johnson say the “selfies” ban helps ensure ballot security.

Challengers of the “ballot selfies” ban say it doesn’t require a lot of re-training. Also, they say a lot of voters are already taking “ballot selfies” without knowing that they’re violating the law – and without creating any problems.

Attorney Stephen Klein said lifting the “selfies” ban does not require a lot of re-training.

“Michigan voters, as we showed in our case, were already taking ‘ballot selfies’ even when it was illegal,” said Klein. “All they have to do now is let people keep doing what they werealready doing.”

Klein says the Secretary of State should act now to alert local clerks that it will probably be legal for voters to take pictures with their ballots.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.