Any registered voter is now legally permitted to cast an absentee ballot for any reason or no reason, including convenience. Despite the availability of absentee voting in advance of an election day, such a contested national election as we have this year makes it reasonable to expect that many people will physically vote this Tuesday.
Polarized voters will likely have strong opinions concerning their preferred candidates when they vote this year. As a matter of pride, people may want to take pictures of their completed ballots, sometimes to post to social media or to share with friends.
Unfortunately, “ballot selfies” taken in Ohio cannot be exhibited or shared with others. The historical purpose of this law is a noble one. Traditionally, the government has worked hard to ensure that no one was being coerced or paid to vote for or against any particular candidate. By outlawing the ability to prove how someone voted, the law was designed to make it impossible as a practical matter to prove a voter’s compliance with bribes or threats.
Generally, people have been very honest about how they voted, after they vote. This has led to the strong reputation for the reliability of “exit polling.” However, particularly in an election like this year’s presidential race, social pressures could lead people to feel that they must “prove” their votes with selfies. Ohio law is designed to protect people from such pressures.
The primary argument against laws like this one has been that such laws infringe upon voters’ constitutional rights of self-expression. The Ohio law has not been overturned, but several other states’ similar laws have been overturned based upon this argument.
Specifically, though, only the exhibition of the photograph of a completed ballot is illegal. Therefore, there is technically no problem with taking a picture of your own completed ballot. However, the law literally precludes showing the picture to anyone else. Notably, it is possible that, if your smart phone’s data is backed up in the cloud with accessibility by others, the “exhibition” requirement in the law could be satisfied.
Regardless of whether you bring your smart phone to the polling place, you should bring certain identification. The identification requirement is satisfied with an unexpired driver’s license or state-issued identification card. However, certain other forms of identification are also sufficient, even if they do not include photographs. The key is that the identification must include the voter’s name and address. Originals or copies of recent paychecks, bank statements, utility bills or other government documents that include both the voter’s name and address are acceptable forms of identification. Because a passport does not include an address, a passport is not sufficient identification for voting in Ohio.
If someone attempts to vote without proper identification, that person may cast a “provisional” ballot by swearing an oath and signing an affidavit that the voter is the person who is entitled to vote.
The law requiring identification to vote has also been under attack, but it remains the law.
Lee R. Schroeder is an Ohio licensed attorney at Schroeder Law LLC in Putnam County. He limits his practice to business, real estate, estate planning and agriculture issues in northwest Ohio. He can be reached at Lee@LeeSchroeder.com or at 419-659-2058. This article is not intended to serve as legal advice, and specific advice should be sought from the licensed attorney of your choice based upon the specific facts and circumstances that you face.