Thursday, April 16, 2009

What's Wrong With Photographing Your Own Ballot?

From the time we're kids, we are constantly being told the importance of voting, that it's a "duty", and the sacrifices that others have made so that we can exercise the right. Last year a group of celebrities tried to shame people into it.

But it turns out that your "right" to vote is extremely limited (and I'm not even talking about the ridiculous election laws that Democrats and Republicans have written to protect themselves over the years). For instance, your vote is not yours to sell, if you choose to sell it. And now, it turns out, it's not even yours to photograph, either, as some unfortunate hockey fan in Missouri is possibly about to find out.

Whoever wrote-in [St Louis Blues hockey player T.J.] Oshie as a candidate in last week's election took a picture of the ballot that was then posted on a fan website — a violation of the law, state and county election officials say.

A little-known election regulation appears to prohibit voters from photographing and displaying their own voted ballot.

And the punishment is more than just a few minutes in the penalty box: Willfully sharing the contents of a completed ballot is a class-four election offense in Missouri, carrying up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine.

"Willfully sharing the contents of a completed ballot" is an offense punishable by jail time and a fine? Whaaaatttt???

What if I tell people how I voted? Is that a crime? If the vote belongs to me (one person, one vote) then no one should have the power to tell me what I do with that vote. If I want to take a photo of it, if I am so proud of my vote (and it's just not enough for me to wear one of those obnoxious "I Voted" stickers they give you at the polling place) that I want to let everyone know exactly how I voted, then why can't I?

What if I'm partnered up with someone who's part of Votergasm, who won't have sex with me until I've provided photographic evidence that I've voted? What if I'm partnered with one of the "Girls who say yes to boys who say Obama," and she wants proof that I put Obama in the box before she'll give me access to her box (sorry, couldn't resist)?

Thanks to an obtrusive and unjust law, these lovely ladies will just have to take me at my word that I voted for Obama.

If my vote is not really mine, then all those people who died so that I could have it died in vain.

The integrity of the voting process is at stake, he said.

"You can't violate something as sacred as the ballot,"
[county elections director Rich A.] Chrismer said. "People won't trust going to a polling place if they think somebody is walking around with a camera."

First of all, the person with the camera was a voter taking a photo of his own ballot. Does this sanctimonious jackass Rich A. Chrismer understand the difference between a single private citizen photographing his own ballot and an organized campaign of intimidation and force?

Actually, he does. He's going to use some intimidation himself:

The chances of ever finding the Oshie voter are slim — the photo appears anonymously and individual voter preferences are not tracked by name.

Chrismer, however, said he will at least attempt to sleuth the voter's identity by contacting the Oshie website.

When you're worried about voters being intimidated, and the voting process being compromised, the obvious thing to do is to harass private citizens who are exercising their "sacred" rights in a way that you don't like. And if we've learned anything from what happened in Florida in 2000, and Minnesota in 2008 (and we haven't), it's that one vote really doesn't matter anyway- but a bunch of lawyers do.

The offending website can be found here, at least for now.

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