So, I'm going to start spending more time sharing things with our readers here who couldn't care less about code (although it does cause change ;) but who, like myself, really care a bunch more about how we preserve our right to be a part of our democracy. And for us that means more easily and conveniently casting our ballot and knowing our ballots are counted as cast. So for you, my thought today is about something that makes total sense on the one hand, and totally doesn't on the other... the voter selfie. I went back and forth on this for days, reading various views from Vogue to the NY Times, to even local coverage complete with an attempt at humor like this one below from the Concord (N.H.) Monitor's lead cartoonist:
And so here is where I come down on this. Think about it.
In the era of the over-share, the voting booth selfie is the new “I voted” sticker—a badge to let your social network know that you, too, participated in your American civic duty and civil right. You’ve made your mark and want to let the world know you’re civic-ally on-trend. Why not snap a quick pic in the ballot box to post for the world to see? Seems innocent enough at first, right?
Voting is a sacred right in the United States, and that right is based on privacy. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, own land or don’t, work for yourself or work for a union, your vote counts one-for-one against everyone else’s, and your vote belongs to no one but you. This guarantee is possible because of privacy (an inherent check against intimidation or selling your vote which, by the way, you so totally cannot do!) By snapping a photo of a ballot in the polling booth, we jeopardize the validity of that ballot. Then two obvious questions arise:
- Is this person showing someone how they voted in order to receive compensation?
- Was this voter coerced in some way and showing a photo to prove his or her loyalty or obedience to an employer, government official, or other (or worse, avoid threatened consequences)?
The ability to manipulate the system—to even cast doubt that a ballot should not be legitimately counted as cast—is too great a risk for something as frivolous as a tout on social media. This is beyond a free speech issue—it’s a fairness issue and an essential balance check. Even if corruption in the voting booth is technically far-fetched, doesn’t our democratic process deserve a modicum of respect?
In the US, we take our right to vote in free and fair elections as a given—some may say for granted. Yet, voter participation is abysmally low—just 37% of eligible voters even bothered to show up for the 2014 elections. There are a host of reasons for the lack of interest: apathy, polling place inconvenience, and a lack of education on the issues to name just a few of these reasons. But think about this: In stark opposition, there are several countries throughout the world where people put their lives at risk to vote—in defiance of polling place terrorism, government coercion and retaliation, and rigged elections. It happens every year across continents, and yet people still fight for the right to rule themselves. Out of respect for the privilege we have as citizens of a nation that bases itself on democratic rule, and keeping in mind those who still fight for this right, showing a little solemnity for the voting process seems entirely reasonable. Our system is too valuable to risk, and our pursuit of a more perfect union may depend on it.
You know what might work just as well? How about a posted photo of your “I Voted” sticker? Want your face in it? Wear it. Then snap your selfie. Bam: Democracy flourishes and your friends know you care.
-Ms. Voting Matters