Governor Brown Signs Assemblymember Levine’s Legislation to Legalize Ballot Selfies

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Ballot Selfie

AB 1494 (Levine) Protects Political Speech

Today Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr., signed AB 1494 by Assemblymember Marc Levine (D-Marin County) to allow California voters to take ballot selfies and post them on social media.  A ballot selfie is a digital image of a voter’s ballot. 

“The First Amendment right to political speech is sacrosanct and antiquated laws must be corrected,” said Assemblymember Marc Levine.  “AB 1494 encourages voter pride, political speech, and civic engagement through social media.  Laws prohibiting this activity were written before sharing digital images over the internet was ubiquitous.  This legislation updates those laws to reflect technology and the world in which we now live.”

Several sections of California law arguably prohibit ballot selfies.  For example, Section 14291 of the Elections Code provides, “After the ballot is marked, a voter shall not show it to any person in such a way as to reveal its contents.”  On its face, this law statutorily prohibits a voter from taking a ballot selfie and posting it on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or other social media.  The California Constitution also provides that a ballot is “confidential.”

However, recent federal district court decisions indicate that this California law is likely unconstitutional as it denies voters their First Amendment right of free speech. The courts ruled that laws in New Hampshire and Indiana banning disclosure of one’s ballot are unconstitutional.  The courts found that the ballot selfie is a form of political speech that can be restricted only by meeting the highest standard of constitutional scrutiny. 

“A voter’s right to secrecy under the California Constitution must in no way diminish a voter’s right to political speech,” concluded Assemblymember Levine.

AB 1494 takes effect January 1, 2017.

Assemblymember Marc Levine represents the 10th Assembly District which includes Marin and Sonoma Counties.