The Secret Ballot Is More Important than Your Selfie


Please pardon my small rant.  It’s become popular in some circles to take a picture of your filled-in ballot.  That’s illegal in many states and there’s a reason for it.  The prohibition on taking a picture of your ballot is designed to protect your right to vote as you choose.

The secret ballot has been one of the gems of our democracy.  We have secret ballots so that no one can make you vote a certain way.  Your boss can tell you to vote for Trump or you’ll be fired.  Your pastor can tell you that if you vote for Hillary, the community will shun you.  Your grandfather can tell you that you have to vote for Gary Johnson or he’ll write you out of the will; your dad can explain how you should vote if you expect him to pay next semester’s tuition.  Your abusive boyfriend or husband can tell you that you must vote for Trump or “you’ll be sorry,” meaning you’ll be wearing a black eye for a few days.  And you can still walk into the voting booth, vote for whomever you choose, walk out, and lie.  “Sure, yep, Boss.  Pulled the lever for Trump.  Just like you said.”

But if your boss, or pastor, or grandfather, or father, or boyfriend, or husband, or whomever has power over you (and, let’s face it, in this society, power-over is still very much a thing and it’s generally men who possess it), and a “ballot selfie” is legal, then there’s an easy way for them to make sure you vote the way they want you to vote.  “Bring me a picture of your ballot filled in as I told you, or else.”

Look, maybe you’ve led a more charmed life than I have and you’ve never had a boss at a job you desperately need make illegal demands upon you.  You’ve never had a husband who controlled you with physical threats.  And you think it would be cool to post a picture of your ballot on Facebook.  But that simply isn’t a good reason to throw away the secret ballot.

(Another reason that such pictures are illegal is to prevent people from selling their votes.  And that’s important, too.  But, in my opinion, it’s the less important reason.)

Picture, and a lovely essay, found here.


6 responses to “The Secret Ballot Is More Important than Your Selfie

  1. Jane Gagle-Bennett

    Another story about why the secret ballot is so important – evangelical women who have to hide their support of Hillary Clinton – the story in Marie Claire. Btw, I’m very impressed by the work done this year by “women’s” magazines – serious stories about serious issues.

  2. I agree too!

  3. Too bad the perfectly good mechanical machines in New York were replaced in the wake of the 2000 debacle. One could have taken any number of pictures with levers down, but none counted except the last pulled before the curtain was opened.

  4. good points. in my polling place, there were “no cell phone” signs. but, if you made a mistake on your ballot, you could go turn it in and get a new one – so it would be easy enough to do a ballot, selfie it, then take it to the desk and say you made a mistake, that one gets destroyed, and you do a new one.

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