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redeyechicago.com

Taking photos of your ballot is illegal in Illinois

By Michael Holtz

Tribune reporter

1:28 AM CST, November 7, 2012

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Illinois voters might want to reconsider that picture they posted online of their completed ballots. Turns out, it's considered a felony under state law.

On Tuesday, people logging into their various social media sites saw photographs others posted of their completed ballots.

The state's election code doesn't explicitly ban photographing ballots, but it does prohibit voting in a way that can be observed by others. Ken Menzel, deputy general counsel for the Illinois State Board of Elections, said posting photos of completed ballots on social media is a clear violation of that provision.

Written before the age of smartphones, the law wasn't intended to punish social media-obsessed voters. Rather, Menzel said, lawmakers enacted it to discourage vote-buying.

Its classification as a felony — carrying a one- to three-year prison sentence and a maximum fine of $25,000 — reflects how seriously Illinois officials take the practice.

“Having a picture of the ballot is an important cog in vote-buying schemes,” Menzel said. “The buyers want to know they got what they paid for.”

Other states have election codes much stricter than Illinois'. In Michigan, voters have their ballots confiscated if they are found taking a photo or video of it and will not get a new one.

Menzel said the elections board had received more reports from polling officials about voters photographing their ballots Tuesday than in 2008. But he's not surprised. He considers it another sign of our hyperconnected times.

mholtz@tribune.com

Twitter: @ChicagoBreaking