As some of you are aware, I am serving in Berks County as a Poll Watcher. Prior to today, I had little concern over the voting machines used by Pennsylvania, as they are 30+ years old and not connected to the internet. However, today my concern has changed.
I have seen numerous verified reports from across the Commonwealth of voting machines specifying the Democratic candidates, when an individual has selected the straight Republican candidates button. This has been a confirmed issue in Lebanon County, as reported by PennLive – Voting Machine Error that Showed Republicans Voting Democrat Fixed. There is also the report from the Schuylkill County Republican Committee of the same thing:
I also have a report from Berks County – Muhlenberg 10th, that the same issue was occurring. There are also reports from Exeter, identical in nature.
While currently all information is supporting that votes cast for the candidates specified by the light next to his/her name is being correctly recorded, it is questionable of whether that information can be definitively known at this time, given the way in which the data is recorded in these machines.
Accordingly, any voter should specify the individual candidates that he/she desires to vote for and not click the button to vote straight party.
If you are planning on snapping a “selfie” in the voting booth this Tuesday, you may find yourself on the wrong side of the law.
25 Pa.C.S. § 3530 prohibits a voter from showing “his ballot or the face of the voting machine voted by him to be seen by any person with the apparent intention of letting it be known how he is about to vote.” A person who violates this section “shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and, upon conviction thereof, shall be sentenced to pay a fine not exceeding one thousand ($1,000) dollars, or to undergo an imprisonment of not more than one (1) year, or both, in the discretion of the court.”
While the law does not make it a crime to show a ballot after it has been cast, any revelation prior to the vote being cast appears to be punishable. This would seemingly include any live streaming activities as well. It also appears to conflict with one’s First Amendment right to free speech.
In fact, a Federal Court held in September that a New Hampshire ban on “ballot selfies” was unconstitutional. The law challenged made it unlawful for voters to snap a picture of their ballot and post it on social media.
The Pennsylvania Department of State (DoS) issued a guidance on rules in effect at the polling place on election day in October of this year. Under the section entitled “Electronic Devices” the DoS states that the Election Code does not address the use of electronic devices in the polling place and as such, counties should “adopt common sense rules that take into account the need for order in the polling place and the right of citizens to vote unimpeded.”
In particular, the guidance notes that “[r]ecent court cases have found a First Amendment right to take “ballot selfies”. Therefore, the DoS recommends that “voters who want to take a picture of themselves voting take care that they not disclose the selections of voters other than themselves. The Department recommends that voters wait until after they leave the polling place to post ballot selfies on social media.”
While the law has not changed here in Pennsylvania, it would seem that the trend on a national level would indicate that if an individual were to challenge the law in relation to “ballot selfies” they would be successful on First Amendment grounds.
While I have blogged on the topic extensively, many residents of Pennsylvania are unaware of their right to carry a firearm while voting, unless their polling location is located at a place which prohibited under state law. Accordingly, I did a short video on the right to carry a firearm, while voting. For those interested in a more in-depth review of the general right to carry a firearm while voting in Pennsylvania, see my article – Voting While Carrying a Firearm in PA – It’s Legal!
(Your PA Firearms Attorney® voting in 2013 with a Sig on my right hip)
When Northampton County previously precluded one of my clients from voting, I took action, which resulted in Northampton County now informing all of its voters of their general right to carry a firearm, while voting. http://www.northamptoncounty.org/northampton/cwp/view.asp…|34800|&northamptonNav_GID=1988 declaring
The Pennsylvania Uniform Firearms Act, 18 Pa.C.S.A. Sections 6101 et seq., permits any person permitted to possess a firearm to openly carry or, with a license to carry firearm, to conceal carry the firearm in Northampton County with the exception of elementary schools, secondary schools, or court facilities. No individual shall be precluded from entering a polling location while lawfully carrying a firearm, whether openly or concealed, unless such polling location constitutes an elementary school, secondary school, or court facility. No individual shall be precluded from voting while lawfully carrying a firearm, whether openly or concealed, unless such polling location constitutes an elementary school, secondary school, or court facility. No sign shall be drafted, written, erected, placed, or visibly available at any polling location precluding an individual from entering a polling location or voting while in lawful possession of a firearm.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to vote, regardless of whether or not you carry a firearm. While I believe voting while carrying a firearm is a political statement, the failure of so many citizens to become involved in the political process may result in us losing our right to make any political statement, as evidenced by the current state of our Union.
If anyone precludes you from voting while carrying a firearm, contact our office – 888-313-0416 or firstname.lastname@example.org – so that we can discuss your legal options.