Bill would allow revelation of photographed ballots

Nebraska voters could take photos of their ballots and display them publicly under a bill heard Jan. 28 by the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee.

Lincoln Sen. Adam Morfeld, sponsor of LB787, said the change would protect a voter’s right to free expression and promote young people’s excitement about the electoral process.

Calling the measure the “ballot selfie bill,” Morfeld said it would provide a narrow exception to the current prohibition in Nebraska law on public display of a marked ballot. He said that the prohibition is too broad and makes it a crime for a voter to post a photo with his or her own ballot on social media.

The bill would allow a voter to photograph his or her ballot after it is marked and reveal that photograph in a manner that allows it to be viewed by another person. The bill would retain the prohibition on solicitation of a voter for the purpose of voter coercion or vote selling.

“LB787 retains the tools needed to deter and punish voter coercion and solicitation while allowing for ballot selfies,” Morfeld said.

Bri McLarty, director of voting rights for Nebraskans for Civic Reform, testified in support of the bill. The current prohibition dates from the 1990s, she said, long before the advent of social media and smart phones.

“The goal [of the bill] is to avoid a $100 fine and a misdemeanor for a kid who’s excited about voting,” she said.

Neal Erickson, deputy secretary of state for elections, testified in opposition to the bill, calling it bad public policy.

Erickson said the prohibition on the public display of a marked ballot is meant to protect against electioneering and vote buying. Sharing a photo of a marked ballot could be used to influence how other people vote, he said.

“Selfies could be taken by partisan activists and shared just as frequently as by those voting for the first time,” Erickson said.

The committee took no immediate action on the bill.

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