DENVER – A judge says Colorado voters can post ballot selfies on social media sites, differing from recent federal court decisions on the laws just before Election Day.
U.S. District Judge Christine Arguello ruled late Friday that Colorado can’t enforce an 1891 law preventing voters from disseminating their marked ballots. The ruling says polling places may still enforce local rules banning photography. However, no resident will be prosecuted for sharing images of completed ballots on social media.
It comes the same week that judges in New York and California upheld bans, saying changing the rules so close to the election would create confusion for voters and polling place workers.
Colorado election officials testified about those concerns.
The ruling in Colorado is temporary and doesn’t mean that the ban won’t be upheld by a court later, but those who challenged the law were happy with the ruling.
“Today is, quite simply, a big win for Colorado voters,” said state Sen. Owen Hill, R-Colorado Springs. “In this crucial time leading up to Election Day, the court’s ruling is proof that the First Amendment will continue to be a pillar holding up the roof of our Republic.
“Coloradans can be assured they won’t be prosecuted for taking a picture of their ballot in order to have their voice be heard.”
Hill was one of two plaintiffs who challenged the 125-year-old law. The cases were heard at the same time in U.S. District Court in Colorado during a hearing over two days.
The other case was filed by Caryn Ann Harlos, spokeswoman for the Libertarian Party of Colorado.
The crux of both cases was that the law is unconstitutional, with the effect of chilling free speech.
Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey’s office and state officials this week submitted affidavits to the court swearing not to prosecute people for taking ballot selfies. They say no one has been prosecuted for taking a ballot selfie.
But the affidavits came after Morrissey’s office issued a news release on Oct. 20 reminding voters that ballot selfies are illegal. That news release served as the impetus for the lawsuits after people took it as a sign that they could face criminal charges.