Assemblyman Benedetto has lukewarm response to ballot selfie bill

A bill to be introduced shortly by two Manhattan legislators may allow voters to take selfies of their ballots.

The legislation is being introduced in January by Senator Brad Hoylman and Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal.

It would permit picture taking in the voting booth, something that is currently prohibited in New York state.

Hoylman said that idea for the legislation originated from photos circulated on social media on Election Day in November of celebrities’ ballots.

Specifically, concerns arose about a photo of music star Justin Timberlake’s ballot in Tennessee, one of 18 states that bans voting photography along with New York, said the senator.

“The law in New York currently prohibits voters from taking photos of their ballots,” said Hoylman, adding that the law originated as a protection against voting coercion by employers.

With the advent of social media, the senator believes that the law needs to be updated.

“Technology has changed and social media is a way of a lot of us communicate; the idea of employee coercion I think is an anachronism,” said Hoylman, adding “Certainly the bill that we are going to be introducing shortly is going to remove the prohibition against ballot photographs but maintain the protection against intimidation or coercion.”

The senator believes that social media is a way to engage voters, especially younger voters, to participate in the democratic process.

Rosenthal agrees, saying that millennials are definitely using social media like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or Snapchat for their communications.

The assemblywoman believes that the posting of ballots on social media could encourage civic dialogue.

“First of all, so much of civic dialogue either starts or is present on social media,” said Rosenthal. “That is increasingly how people discuss world and state events.

She added: “I thought that the prohibition of taking photos of the ballot was just a throwback to another time when there were different needs.”

She believes that if people want to advertise the fact that they voted, there is no need to stop them.

Many people who are not knowledgeable of the law are taking selfies of their ballots and posting them online now.

Rosenthal stated that the current law against voting photography is 126 years old.

She believes the bill will pass.

Rosenthal’s colleague, Assemblyman Michael Benedetto, was lukewarm to the idea.

Benedetto said that his concern is that taking selfies while voting may slow down the voting process.

“Especially during presidential elections, we have lines of people at polling places looking to vote…now we are going to have people taking selfies while they vote, which will slow things down even more,” said Benedetto.

Benedetto added: “While I don’t object to the bill…I am a little unsettled as to what the consequences may be.”

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 260–4597. E-mail him at procchio@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @patrickfrocchio.

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