Denver DA: Voter selfies, showing ballot to others illegal
SOS Williams says it is a misdemeanor that carries up to a $1K fine and up to 1 year in jail
DENVER—Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey issued a threat to Colorado voters Thursdaythat it’s criminal in Colorado to show your election ballot to other people and warned that voter selfies are illegal too. His spokesperson explained it is to avoid voter fraud where it could be “something as simple as free drinks.” The Colorado Springs Gazette said, “Colorado voters beware: Facebooking, tweeting, or Snapchatting your ballot could get you in trouble.” The Pueblo Chieftain said voters should avoid sharing these type of selfies too. KCNC-CBS 4 told Coloradovoters, “It’s okay to take a selfie with a ballot in hand, but don’t you dare show who you voted for.”
Advancing Colorado Executive Director Jonathan Lockwood says Morrissey’s threats are dangerous to our democratic process and released the following statement:
“We should be encouraging participation in our democratic process, not stunning voters with threats of jail time or worse for posting a voter selfie. The fact is that Morrissey’s office sent out this seeming threat of prosecution and it has caused a massive amount of confusion and fear, and it prompts a lot of questions. I spoke at a meeting in Jefferson County last night and voters were outraged that any DA would seemingly threaten voters over a voter selfie. What was the true intention behind Morrissey’s misguided threat?”
Colorado Republican Secretary of State Wayne Williams says it’s a misdemeanor that carries up to a $1,000 fine and up to a year in jail.
“The reason for that is the possibility of selling the vote or trading the vote for something,” Williams told CBS 4’s Rick Sallinger.
The ACLU of Colorado is arguing Morrissey and his office is wrong. ACLU of Colorado Legal Director Mark Silverstein said that courts in Indiana and New Hampshire recently upheld individuals’ rights to post voter selfies. Silverstein released a statement calling on Morrissey to “immediately retract his misguided threat to prosecute voters for taking and sharing ballot selfies. It poses the risk of chilling voters who need assistance from asking for it if they fear that showing their ballot will violate the law.” The ACLU of Colorado’s full statement can be read here.
Seven other states have legislation that specifically allows people to take their pictures with their ballots and post them on social media, Silverstein said.
“We’re asking him to retract his statement,” Silverstein told the Denver Post. “It’s a threat of prosecution as far as I can tell.”
According to the Denver Post, Morrissey’s office issued a news release Thursday morning saying Colorado state law includes ballot selfies posted on social media. It is a misdemeanor offense to do so, the release said.
Colorado statute §1-13-712 says, “No voter shall show his ballot after it is prepared for voting to any person in such a way as to reveal its contents.”
The prohibition on sharing a completed ballot is an effort to guard against potential voter fraud, Morrissey spokesperson Lynn Kimbrough said. She added that the potential for someone to purchase votes is an example of the type of fraud that could potentially occur.
“It could be something as simple as free drinks at Joe’s bar for anybody who votes for my candidate,” Kimbrough said, conjuring up what she imagines a possible situation. “If you bring a picture of your ballot to show me you voted for my friend, I’ll give you a free drink. It was not designed to limit a person’s free speech in terms of sharing who you have voted for.”
“I was appalled,” state Rep. Paul Rosenthal, D-Denver, said of the statute, when he himself put a photo online of his ballot, and was told by a friend to take it down lest he face prosecution. Rosenthal has written legislation twice to repeal the law, but was ineffective at gaining support from fellow legislators at the Statehouse.
Rosenthal credits the law to when the mob, the Ku Klux Klan, and one’s employer pressured individuals into voting a certain way.
“Those days are over,” Rosenthal said. “Taking a picture of your ballot and putting it on Facebook is your U.S. constitutional right to speak as you wish. And the Colorado Constitution goes further and says you have a right to publish.”
For more information call:
The office of Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey at 720-913-9000,
ACLU of Colorado Communications Director John Krieger at 720-402-3111,
The office of Secretary of State Wayne Williams at 303-860-6903.