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Court Strikes Down New Hampshire's "Ballot Selfie" Law

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.