When I first heard about bans on voting booth selfies, I thought this was ridiculous, and probably impossible to enforce. After all, I've taken pictures in the voting booth myself for this blog. The one on the right I took after voting and slipping my ballot into the secrecy sleeve at the August primary election.
But last night at dinner the conversation turned to the American tradition of taking voters to the polls and then paying them to vote for a particular candidate. According to this Washington Post article published in 2012, it still happens and the price is often alcohol and cash.
But before cell phone cameras people buying votes had to rely on the honesty of the voter, and considering the voter was willing to sell his vote, that wasn't necessarily a sure thing.
But with everyone carrying cellphones with cameras now, a vote buyer could condition the payment on a selfie of the voter with his filled out ballot in the voting booth. Selfies make buying votes a much more certain enterprise.
But There's Better Reasons Not To Ban Them
That said, I still don't see this as being enforceable. Are we going to have TSA monitor elections and everyone has to empty their pockets before they vote? Even having election officials ask people to empty their pockets and leave their purses and other bags outside the voting booth is untenable. I hope that doesn't happen and it certainly shouldn't even be considered until there is hard evidence that vote selling/buying is at a level where it is affecting the outcome of elections.
And this ignores the positive message that gets sent when people see their friends' voting selfies online. Perhaps selfies that show how someone voted that are found online can get a fine if buying votes for selfies becomes a thing. But maybe better drug and alcohol rehabilitation and poverty programs would be a better way to spend anti-voting-selfie funds.
Now that I've written this post, I'm going to read this Mother Jones article I found titled The Case Against Voting Booth Selfies. OK, I've read it now. It's basically the argument I just made about verifying bought votes and it's shorter than this post.
As I'm writing this I'm thinking about my discussion with the village head man near the town where I taught English in Thailand and influencing the elections there. Maybe I'll do that as a part 2 to this post.