Justin Timberlake’s illegal voting booth selfie not ‘under review’

Timberlake's Instagram post. Instagram

Justin Timberlake reportedly broke a state law by taking a selfie while voting early in his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee, on Monday, Oct. 24.

The Can’t Stop The Feeling singer shared the selfie of himself casting his ballot on Instagram with his 37 million followers in an attempt to encourage fans to exercise their right to vote.

“Hey! You! Yeah, YOU! I just flew from LA to Memphis to #rockthevote,” he captioned the post. “There could be early voting in your town too. If not, November 8th! Choose to have a voice! If you don’t then we can’t HEAR YOU! Get out and VOTE! #ExerciseYourRightToVote.”

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Justin Timberlake’s illegal voting booth selfie not ‘under review’ - image

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Despite good intentions, Timberlake’s decision to take a selfie inside the booth is illegal in his home state.

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Early reports indicated Timberlake’s case was “under review” the Shelby County D.A.’s Office told a local reporter that was untrue,

In May 2015, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam signed a statewide bill that allows voters to use their cellphones at polling stations for “informational purposes to assist the voter in making election decisions.” Taking photos or videos inside a booth, however, is prohibited as is making a phone call inside the polling station.

Ballot photo laws vary throughout the United States. According to ABC News, many states, including Connecticut, Hawaii and Maine, do not ban photographs; they are illegal in states such as New York, Florida and Alaska, though.


Many people are unaware of these laws and could risk criminal penalties if they upload shots of their ballot to the internet.

“It’s a very unusual case,” says Jeffrey Hermes, the deputy director of the Media Law Resource Center in New York. “Usually banning political speech would be a violation of the First Amendment. But with photography at polling places, there’s an intersection of two fundamental aspects of democracy: freedom of speech and the integrity of the voting process.”

Hermes breaks down the situation in a way that shows that posting a photo online could intimidate other voters: Suppose you were a nefarious character who wanted to skew the voting process in some way. You could buy votes, but you’d want proof that people actually voted like you told them to. You could mislead people who don’t understand the voting process or don’t speak English well. You could intimidate other voters into voting like you do.

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In these cases, photos from inside the voting booth would really help you, the nefarious character, perpetrate election fraud. And so, many states have just banned those photos categorically. In this narrow circumstance, they’ve indicated, there’s something more essential to democracy than free speech.

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In Canada, Elections Canada is similarly opposed to voter oversharing.

“Voters are welcome to share photos of themselves taken outside the polling place,” spokesperson Diane Benson said in an email to Global News.

Many people are tempted to snap a photo when they think no one is looking, but this isn’t a good idea.

“If an electoral worker sees a voter taking a photo in the polling place, they will ask the voter to stop taking photos in the polling place and to maintain the secrecy of the vote by not sharing a photo of a marker ballot,” Benson added.

Benson also said that if Elections Canada is aware that someone’s shared a photo of a marked ballot they will “inform the Commissioner of Canada Elections.”

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In 2013, three Canadian voters who “broke the law” at the voting booth by posting photos of their provincial election ballots online were pursued by Elections Nova Scotia.

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One of the three voters included a political blogger, Parker Donham. An Elections Nova Scotia spokesman said the marked ballot photos that surfaced online contravened the province’s elections act, which prohibits use of a “recording or communications device” at a polling station — an infraction that brings a maximum $5,000 fine.

Donham posted a photo of his vote to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. “I went over to a little cardboard shield that you stand behind, marked my ballot and took out my iPhone and snapped a few photos,” he said, adding that he did not see any signs indicating that doing so was against the rules.

Moments after tweeting the photo, the Elections Nova Scotia Twitter account responded, informing Donham that his case had been referred to the RCMP.

“I was exercising political speech,” Donham said in an interview. “I think political speech is at the heart of free speech and if the legislature wants to restrict it, then they need to do so in the most clear and unambiguous terms.”

WATCH BELOW: Texas experiencing record turnouts for early voting

Click to play video: 'Texas experiencing record turnouts for early voting' Texas experiencing record turnouts for early voting
Texas experiencing record turnouts for early voting – Oct 25, 2016

It is important to make sure you’re aware of the laws in your country or state before posting a picture with your completed ballot on social media sites such as Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

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Timberlake and his wife, actress Jessica Biel, are outspoken Hillary Clinton supporters. They even held a Hollywood fundraiser for the Democratic nominee back in August when Leonardo DiCaprio could no longer host the event.

With files from Anna Mehler Paperny

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