We use smart phones and social media to document many parts of our lives, but one place it might not be so wise to document your activities with your camera phone is in the voting booth, which is exactly what many Georgians are doing.
Between the fact that nearly every phone now has a camera on it and those phones are linked to social media, it is becoming more and more common to see people post pictures or video while they are doing one of the most important things they can do; voting.
“It has become so prevalent that I have added the issue to my presentation on campaign finance and election laws that I give to candidates and party activists around the state.” says Jason Shepherd, an Atlanta attorney who served as General Counsel of both the Cobb County Republican Party and the Young Republican National Federation. “I’ve also had to warn people not to take selfies of themselves and a campaign sticker for their candidate within the 150 feet limit of a polling place.”
Georgia law prohibits the use of cameras during much of the voting process. Taking a selfie while voting or outside the door of a polling place holding up a bumper sticker for the candidate you are voting for, or a photo of your ballot could put you in violation of the code.
The Official Code of Georgia Annotated (O.C.G.A.) Section 21-2-413(e) states, “No person shall use photographic or other electronic monitoring or recording devices, cameras, or cellular telephones while such person is in a polling place while voting is taking place.”
“There are several important reasons for this law,” says Shepherd. “Cameras can be used for voter intimidation or by someone who has been offered something of value for their vote and needs to document how they voted.”
The law allows photos to be taken if the poll manager allows it, but even then it still prohibits photography, “of a ballot or the face of a voting machine or DRE unit while an elector is voting such ballot or machine or DRE unit…”
It has also become common for people to post photos of themselves with bumper stickers or other small campaign pieces outside polling places to show friends they are about to vote for a certain candidate. However, even this seemingly innocent activity can violate election laws.
O.C.G.A. § 21-2-414(a) states in part, “No person shall solicit votes in any manner or by any means or method, nor shall any person distribute or display any campaign literature, newspaper, booklet, pamphlet, card, sign, paraphernalia, or any other written or printed matter of any kind…(1) Within 150 feet of the outer edge of any building within which a polling place is established; (2) Within any polling place; or (3) Within 25 feet of any voter standing in line to vote at any polling place.
Between now and November 4, more than 2.5 million Georgians are expected to cast ballots for everything from Governor and United States Senator to local offices.
“Elections are big events and the backbone of our republican system of government,” says Shepherd. “People are naturally excited about their candidates and being part of something millions of their fellow Americans are participating in. But wait until you are out of your polling place to take out your smart phone. Instead of breaking the law by taking a picture of how you voted, take the selfie with your Peach ‘Georgia Voter’ sticker and use that to remind your friends and family they need to make it to the polls too.”
Anyone with any questions about what activities are allowed at a polling place should contact their county elections office or the Georgia Secretary of State’s office.
ABOUT JASON SHEPHERD: Attorney Jason Shepherd is a veteran of more than 40 political campaigns in five states over the past two decades including serving as a political aide for House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Congressman John Linder. He also served two terms as a Vice-Chairman of the Georgia Republican Party and is the former General Counsel for the Cobb County Republican Party and the Young Republican National Federation.