In July, taking and/or sharing photos of one’s ballot in the voting booth became illegal in Indiana. Last week, the law went before a federal court, with the ACLU of Indiana arguing it’s a violation of freedom of speech.
The state’s argument for the law is that it’s ensuring the complete privacy and legitimacy of the ballot. Sharing one’s ballot can open the door to voter coercion and intimidation, they contend, because the intimidating party can demand a photo as proof for whom a person voted.
I definitely agree it’s important that every voter is guaranteed the privacy of the voting booth. However, if they choose to waive that privacy of their own accord, such as by taking a selfie with their ballot, I think they should be allowed. As for the state’s voter intimidation hypothesisl, I think voter ID laws like those in Indiana and other states—laws which have created several obstacles to voting in the name of preventing voter fraud, even though statistically the problem is nearly nonexistent—is a bigger threat to the inalienable right to vote.
But beyond debating the law’s merits, this is an especially egregious case of bad optics. I mean, didn’t the state of Indiana stop and think that this law would look a little suspicious, given that Indiana already has a voter ID law, the state had the lowest voter turnout in the country in last year’s midterms, and the controversial polling consolidation of the most Democrat-leaning part of the state? Even if it’s just a coincidence, and the majority-Republican state legislature’s intent with this law was to protect voters, it still sort of looks to the layperson like another law tightening rules and restrictions on voting.
Optics is important in this age of immediate information and short attention spans. Even if a subject or issue is more complicated, by the time one gets around to adequately explaining it, onlookers have probably moved on to something else, so it’s more important than ever to strike the correct note right off the bat.
Then again, given how blindsided the state seemed by the universal negativity to the RFRA earlier this year, even with LGBT acceptance nationwide at an all-time high and only going up, maybe positive optics is too much to ask.