New York Ban on Ballot Selfies Stands

A New York state ban against ballot booth selfies was upheld in a Manhattan court on November 3. Judge P. Kevin Castiel said that those who want to make their choices public can do so by “other powerful means.” This ruling was in response to a lawsuit that contended that taking and sharing photographs of ballots is a First Amendment right. Constitutional attorney Barry Covert spoke to WGRZ’s Scott Levin about the ruling and what the reasoning behind it could have been. The full story is available on the WGRZ website.

Law prevents voter intimidation

WGRZ asked Mr. Covert what the thought process behind this decision might have been. Mr. Covert explained that the action was only filed 13 days before the election and “it’s a very high standard to try to get an injunction against the enforcement of a law.” He went on to say that the law has been in effect for 126 years and that the judge likely determined that “there’s a good reason why the law is on the books. It’s to prevent voter intimidation, it’s to prevent bribery for votes.”

When asked to expand on how the issue of bribery plays into this case, Mr. Covert explained that someone may bribe a voter by saying, “I’ll pay you for that, or you’ll keep your job, if you prove it to me by taking a selfie with your picture and the ballot on it.” Mr. Covert said that this scenario “goes back to what the problem was 126 years ago when they enacted the law that said, ‘No, we don’t want unions or employers or people bribing to try to get votes.’”

Integrity of the ballot

“While there’s a First Amendment right to take these photographs,” Mr. Covert said, the judge found that “the right to the ballot and the honesty and integrity of the ballot is more important.” He added that this issue’s proximity to the election would have caused tens of thousands of election workers to need to be retrained very quickly.

Mr. Covert told WGRZ that “most states did have the law that we implemented 126 years ago” and that New York was the first. He also said that there are “at least 19 states that specifically allow selfies.”

About Barry N. Covert

Mr. Covert is a senior partner in Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria’s Criminal Defense Trials and Appeals Practice Area. He is known for his aggressive representation of clients in the areas of New York State and federal criminal trials and appeals; driving while intoxicated; constitutional law, including First Amendment, civil rights actions, and federal False Claims Act; defending against allegations of scientific misconduct and fraud, research misconduct and fraud, plagiarism, and fabrication of evidence; and professional licensing defense. Mr. Covert frequently provides legal analysis for WGRZ and other media outlets.