Allegheny County: Don’t take a selfie when you vote

Yes, they’ve seen the Justin Timberlake story.

Adam Baker / Flickr
Sarah Anne Hughes

Updated, 6 p.m.

The Allegheny County government today reminded voters not to take photos or video — that includes selfies — inside polling places.

Translation: Yes, they’ve seen the Justin Timberlake voting selfie.

From the press release:

The Allegheny County Elections Division reminds all voters, election board workers and poll watchers that all forms of recording, photographic, video and audio, including “selfies” are prohibited within polling places.

Photography and recording from outside of a polling place into the polling place is permitted as long as ballots are not displayed and entrance into a polling place is not hampered.

Boy-bander turned man-singer Timberlake posted a selfie taken inside a Memphis polling place to his Instagram account earlier this week, a legal no-no in the state of Tennessee. (Don’t cry for Timberlake: It turns out he isn’t being investigated after all.)

That law may actually be unconstitutional, per the ACLU.

Pennsylvania’s Election Code “does not address the use of electronic devices in the polling place,” according to the Pa. Department of State, which “recommends that counties adopt common sense rules that take into account the need for order in the polling place and the right of citizens to vote unimpeded.”

The department also noted, as Billy Penn previously reported, that “recent court cases have found a First Amendment right to take ‘ballot selfies.’ ”

Locally, county spokesperson Amie Downs points to a lawsuit filed by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette‘s parent company several years ago. It sued the county board of elections alleging that a prohibition on reporting and taking photos in polling places infringes on the paper’s First Amendment rights. An appeals court ruled against the paper.

But Vic Walczak, the ACLU of Pennsylvania’s legal director, said that case is about whether a newspaper could send a photographer into a polling place as a newsgatherer. A voter has a legitimate reason to be at their polling place, and the New Hampshire case says voters have a First Amendment right to take a selfie, he said.

“We would encourage the county to reassess the breadth of its ban,” Walczak said.