Blog Post

Vote, Uninterrupted

If you’re planning to vote in person this election, you’d better get familiar with regulations in your state around bringing camera cell phones and other recording devices into the polling area.

Some state election statutes expressly prohibit using cameras or other recording devices within a short distance of the polling place, according to Sam Bayard, assistant director of the grassroots journalism organization Citizen Media Law Project. Kentucky even passed a law in June 2005 that appears to make participating in PBS and YouTube’s Video Your Vote project illegal, he said.

Some states don’t explicitly ban phones and cameras but plan to have poll workers warn voters not to use recording devices in the voting area, Bayard said. The California Secretary of State’s office told me poll workers shouldn’t even ask if a voter is carrying a cell phone, but the Texas Secretary of State’s office said voters have to turn off camera phones completely once they’re within 100 feet of a polling place.

Be aware that some states have laws that prohibit revealing your ballot to others — although it’s unclear how states would enforce those laws, Bayard said, if you, say, post a photo of your ballot on your Facebook page.

Some states loosen those restrictions for media workers — although the definition of a journalist can be hazy. So even if the election is pretty much everywhere online, play it safe when you go out to cast your ballot and check with local officials to see just how offline you’ll need to be to vote in person.

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