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‘Ballot selfie’ battle resurfaces in Michigan with proposal to allow them

Posted at 11:26 AM, Mar 08, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-08 11:58:56-05

LANSING, Mich. — The ban on so-called ‘ballot selfies’ in Michigan is resurfacing with the introduction of a new proposal that would allow voters to use their cell phones or other cameras to take pictures of their ballots or themselves with their ballots in a polling place.

Rep. Steve Johnson, R-Wayland, introduced the proposal which has bi-partisan support in the Legislature.

>> READ: Michigan HB 4328

“Around the country, people increasingly are sharing pictures of their ballot as a way to show support for candidates and issues,” Johnson said in a statement, adding that 20 other states currently allow ‘ballot selfies.’

“The Founding Fathers felt so strongly about our freedom of speech that they protected it with the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. It is our responsibility to preserve and protect this form of free speech in Michigan.”

The proposal follows a court battle late last year and a ruling which briefly lifted the ban before the decision was reversed in an appeals court in the days before the November election.

The court battle was prompted by a lawsuit filed by Joel Crookston of Portage who argued the ban on photos violates the First Amendment. The state said voters are free to declare their political preferences to the world — if they do it away from a polling place. The state said it was trying to avoid “chaos.”

Steve Klein, Crookston’s attorney, commended the bill and Johnson and told FOX 17 passage would be a “big step forward for free speech” in the state.

“By allowing ballot selfies and some other forms of photography in polling places, the bill would address most of the issues in Joel Crookston’s case against Secretary of State Ruth Johnson,” Klein told FOX 17 by email Wednesday.

“My only concern, if the bill passes in its introduced form, is that the Secretary of State might still put different restrictions on how citizens like Crookston and so-called “credentialed media” take photographs in polling places. Either photography is disruptive or distracting, or it isn’t; it should not be up to the Secretary of State or any governmental official to make that determination based solely on who is taking the photograph.”

A similar bill allowing ‘ballot selfies’ was passed by lawmakers in Colorado at the beginning of March, the Denver Post reports.