This week, I exercised two out of three of my most cherished American rights: the right to vote and the right to talk about it (ballot-selfie!). My third favorite liberty is the right to party, famously articulated by the musical group, The Beastie Boys, but that was not something I participated in this week, as I was quite busy engaged in the previously mentioned activities.
The ballot-selfie was recently reaffirmed in the state of Indiana, as well as in New Hampshire (this is not the case in every state, as New York currently has provisions on the books prohibiting it. A law banning voters from taking pictures of their ballots or pictures of themselves with said ballots received a preliminary injunction by a federal district judge last year. In her decision, Judge Sarah Evans Barker cited U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis who claimed that “the greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.” This line is one of my favorites regarding individual liberties because it reminds us that, though challenges to our civil liberties or those of others are often not done with the specific interest of disenfranchising, they can nonetheless have such an effect.
I know I am old because the idea of taking a ballot-selfie is admittedly a little odd to me. I know I vote, I am proud to vote, but I have never really felt the need to take photographic proof of the behavior, presumably to share with others so I could *prove* that I did, in fact, vote. When the original law banning ballot-selfies was passed, however, I found the argument fascinating. Preserving the sanctity of the ballot box and the process of the democratic system writ large is imperative; the potential problems with permitting picture-taking were evident but so were the problems of prohibiting it. I am still researching potential implications from both the behavior and the outlawing of it, as it is an interesting case study in which one's decry for individual liberty may conflict with the system's demand for integrity.
As it has been an equally exciting and tumultuous election cycle, I decided to take my first ever ballot-selfie, lest the outcome of an appeal process someday declare that such an activity is no longer legal. I am an awkward selfie taker at best but I did get a good feeling capturing the moment I held onto my ballot, just before indicating my preferences by filling in the little bubbles beside the candidates' names. We are only four years (yep, count 'em!) until celebrating the centennial of women's suffrage and voting and memorializing it, even in something as silly as a picture, can serve as a reminder of how important and imperative this right is to maintaining the health and system of our democracy. I am so grateful to live in a country in which I help select our future leaders and where I can take a picture to remember the moment for posterity's sake.