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Bill introduced could make "Ballot Selfies" legal in Ohio

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Posted at 12:32 PM, Oct 26, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-26 15:27:26-04

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- It's Election Day. You go into your local polling station to cast a ballot and snap a selfie with your filled-in ballot. Then you tweet it (or Snap it or post it on Facebook, Instagram or another social media platform).

You just inadvertently committed a fifth-degree felony.

But a couple of Ohio lawmakers are trying to change that.

Rep. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg, and Rep. Mike Duffey, R-Franklin County, introduced a bill Tuesday that would allow Ohioans to share pictures online of their absentee mail-in ballot or in-person electronic ballot.

RELATED: Are ballot selfies legal in Kentucky and Indiana?

“With the advent of Facebook, Twitter and social media, people are going to be posting their ballots online to celebrate democracy because they’re excited to vote," Antani said. "And that should not be a felony.”

Because the Ohio House of Representatives doesn’t meet again to debate and potentially vote on the bill until after the November general election, this bill would only allow voters to take “ballot selfies” in future elections beyond 2016, Antani said.

The original intent of the law banning ballot selfies was to make sure a voter being bribed to cast a ballot for a specific candidate couldn’t prove to the person who was bribing them that he or she voted for that specific candidate.

Because there is already a law prohibiting the bribing of voters in Ohio, the extra precaution in Ohio’s law is unnecessary, Antani said.

Nineteen states and the District of Columbia specifically allow voters to take pictures of their ballots. Eighteen states ban the practice outright, with laws in the rest of the country unclear.

Controversy recently surrounded actor and singer Justin Timberlake’s Instagram post he shared on Monday of him casting a ballot in his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee.

Tennessee state law prohibits taking photos or videos inside polling stations, but Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich said no one in her office is “currently investigating” the matter, nor will be in the future.

Liam Niemeyer is a fellow in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism Statehouse News Bureau. You can reach him at liamnmeyer@gmail.com.