NY Ballot-Selfie Ban Upheld for Election Day
MANHATTAN (CN) — Refusing to "wreak havoc on election-day logistics," a New York federal judge upheld a state and city ballot-selfie ban that arguably has been in place for 126 years, well before the age of the iPhone.
Less than two weeks before Election Day, three New Yorkers sued for the right to photograph and broadcast their ballots.
On Tuesday, the state and city both floated images of long lines, vote-buying, privacy violations, and poll-site electioneering to urge the court to deny emergency relief.
Two days later, U.S. District Judge Kevin Castel echoed elections officials' warnings in a 16-page ruling on Thursday.
"Both the state and the city are expecting large numbers of voters for the General Election on Nov. 8, 2016," he wrote. "It is not unreasonable to expect that permitting voters to take selfies with their completed ballots will add unnecessary delays to the voting process. In addition, those taking ballot selfies inside a polling place may inadvertently capture the ballots of other voters who did not wish to have their ballots publicized."
The aspiring selfie-photographers' lawyer Leo Glickman, from the Brooklyn-based firm Stoll, Glickman & Bellina, did not immediately respond to a telephone request for comment.
But Glickman kept his chin up on Twitter.
"Indeed, we fight on," he wrote. "I am optimistic that come next year, the 'ballot selfie' will be legal!"
Thursday's ruling does not end the fight to allow selfies in the Empire State's voting booths, but simply delays the fight until after the presidential contest.
Meanwhile, New York City's senior counsel Stephen Kitzinger cast the ruling as a victory for the electoral system.
"We are pleased that the court recognized how important this law is to assuring the integrity of the electoral system and maintaining ballot secrecy," Kitzinger said.
New York State justifies its selfie prohibition on the its enactment of Australian ballot reforms in 1890, which made it a misdemeanor for anyone to show a "ballot after it is prepared for voting, to any person so as to reveal the contents."
The city's more recent and informal rule has been in place for more than 20 years.
"This policy is apparently publicized through 'no photography' signs posted at polling places," Castel wrote in the 16-page order. "No claim is made that this ban is reflected in any statute or regulation, and no mechanism for its enforcement has been described by the defendants."
Castel declined to rule on the municipal ban until learning more about its history.
Though the litigation continues, New York so far is bucking a national trend of selfie-friendly elections across the country.
At least 19 states allow the practice, and federal courts have overturned bans in Michigan, Indiana and New Hampshire. California will officially repeal its ban on Jan. 1, though the ACLU sued Monday for an immediate de facto effective date — a request that was denied by a federal judge on Wednesday.
Taking the same cautious approach shown in today's ruling, the Sixth Circuit postponed hearing an appeal of the Michigan case until after the election.
New York City has trained 35,000 poll workers and 2,500 police officers in crowd control for Tuesday's highly anticipated contest.
The office of New York Attorney General Eric Schnederman did not immediately respond to an email request for comment.