Rounds for Senate staffer Justin Rollins got really excited about casting his primary ballot early yesterday. He took a picture of his marked ballot and posted it on Twitter to encourage all of his followers to vote for Mike Rounds and Dennis Daugaard, "Two great South Dakotan's." Aside from misusing the apostrophe (hey, my typing fingers slip and do it, too), no big deal, right?
Marked ballot not to be shown--Folding for deposit in ballot box. No person may show a ballot after it is marked to any person in such a way as to reveal the contents of the ballot, or the name of any candidate for whom the person has marked a vote. Nor may any person solicit the voter to show the voter's ballot. Immediately after marking the ballot the voter shall fold and refold the ballot, if necessary, leaving the official stamp exposed [South Dakota Codified Law 12-18-27, passed 1939, amended 1974, 1976, 1990.].
Rollins tells Ellis he had no idea South Dakota outlawed sharing images of marked ballots. Neither did I. Upon being informed of the law, Rollins deleted the photo tweet.
This issue came up nationwide during the last election, when folks on both sides proudly and propagandistically posted images of their ballots on their social media accounts. Such laws are meant to inhibit vote-buying:
[Boston Reporter David] Bernstein said that, after asking around, he’s come to understand that the law stems from the state not wanting people to buy votes. ”The idea being if someone was buying your vote, you’d take a picture to show that you voted for who they wanted you to vote for,” Bernstein said. “So you could see the thought behind it in that sense” [Nate Goldman, "That Photo Of Your Ballot You Posted On Social Media? It’s Against Mass. Law," WBUR, 2012.11.06].
One may also justify ballot-display bans on grounds of protecting the integrity of the polls. We prohibit electioneering activity at polling places, and taking a photo of your ballot may be construed as electioneering activity.
I see no ill intent in Rollins's ballot photo-tweet. I know I've taken photos of my ballot before (though I can't remember if I posted such photos or if I ultimately just kept them for documentation; I trust some ambitious reader will sift through my online trail to find out). But Rollins's ignorance of the ballot photo ban is worth noting considering his resume:
In the summer of 2010, Justin returned to South Dakota as campaign manager for Jason Gant for Secretary of State. Since the election, he has served as State Election Coordinator in the Secretary of State’s office, serving as the office’s point-of-contact for campaign finance issues, as well as school and municipalities election law [SDGOP, press release, 2011.11.15].
The man who had no idea this election law existed was hired by Secretary of State Jason Gant to explain election law to schools and municipalities. South Dakota, that's the quality in government we got by hiring Jason Gant as our Secretary of State.