Today, in a win for free speech, the First Circuit Court of Appeals in
Boston issued a decision finding the ballot-selfie law violates the First
Amendment. Attorney William Christie, a partner with Shaheen & Gordon,
P.A., along with the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire had
filed a lawsuit in federal court in 2014 challenging the law as unconstitutional.
"In this landmark decision affirming the importance of freedom of
speech, the Court rejected New Hampshire Secretary of State William Gardner's
support for the law finding 'the restrictions on speech imposed by
the (the law) are antithetical to democratic values and particularly impose
on political speech,’” said Christie.
The ballot-selfie law, which became effective on September 1, 2014, banned
a person from displaying a photograph of a marked ballot reflecting “how
he or she has voted,” including on the Internet through social media
platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Under the law, this form
of political speech was a violation-level offense punishable by a fine
of up to $1,000, and there were no exceptions to the law.
“Voting is an act of extraordinary importance,” said Christie.
“And it is because of this importance that the First Amendment also
ensures that citizens are free to communicate their experiences at the
polls, including the people for whom they voted if they so wish. As the
Court recognized, there is no more potent way to communicate one’s
support for a candidate than to voluntarily display a photograph of one’s
marked ballot depicting one’s vote for that candidate.”
In this case, Snapchat, Inc., the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the
Press, the New England First Amendment Coalition, and the Keene Sentinel
all filed amicus briefs in support of the ACLU-NH’s position that
this ban is unconstitutional.
This decision impacts New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island,
and Puerto Rico.