(CN) – A California appeals court refused to block San Diego County elections policies that limit photography and video recording in polling stations.
County resident Linda Poniktera sued county voter registrar Deborah Seiler for allegedly enacting the restrictive policies and failing to ensure that ballot boxes were secure and that poll workers accounted for all ballots.
The Fourth District Court of Appeal in San Diego ruled that a polling station is a nonpublic forum under California law, so the policy limiting photography and video recording was a reasonable, content-neutral regulation to ensure a peaceful, orderly voting environment.
County regulations allow individuals to take pictures of seals on ballot boxes before the polls open and after they close. Because state polling stations are not open for public discourse, they are subject to reasonable restraints on expressive conduct, the court ruled.
Poniktera claimed that taking photos would not disrupt the voting process or intimidate voters, but the appeals court said the state could easily conclude that voters would be less willing to come out if they knew they would be photographed.
Poniktera also claimed that the county did not require poll workers to account for ballots at the end of the voting day, but the court found that poll workers were required to check ballot numbers and account for discrepancies on the ballot roster.
“[P]oll workers were required to conduct the accounting but, because the calculation is performed at the end of an extremely long day, as a practical matter it is not uncommon for the numbers to vary slightly,” Justice Alex McDonald wrote.
The appeals court also rejected Poniktera’s tampering claim, noting that the registrar provided tamper-proof seals and trained poll workers on affixing the seals.
The trial court ruled that complying with Poniktera’s request for an injunction “would have little practical effect in terms of altering parties’ behavior.” The appeals court agreed.
The current voting policies sufficiently protect voters’ First Amendment rights, the appeals court concluded.