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Posting pictures of marked ballots is OK in Alaska

Posting pictures on Facebook or Instagram has become second nature to a lot of people. Some voters across the country shared photos of their marked ballots on Election Day, which is considered a misdemeanor or even a felony in certain states. But voters in Alaska can post as many photos as they’d like.

Numerous media outlets in the Lower 48 began warning voters about the dangers of posting pictures of their completed ballots. According to Illinois election code, voters aren’t explicitly banned from posting snapshots, but they are prohibited from voting in a way that can be observed by others. The penalty is a Class 4 felony, which carries a one- to three-year prison sentence and a maximum fine of $25,000.

In Arizona, it’s a Class 2 Misdemeanor to share a marked ballot. Michigan voters can have their ballot confiscated if they snap a photo and are caught. That’s according to a state-by-state chart on the Citizen Media Law Project website. Here in Alaska, voters are not allowed to show their completed ballots to their fellow voters in a polling place. But Elections Director Gail Fenumiai said that’s as far as the state statute goes.

“The statute that prevents the exhibition of a marked ballot was written in 1960, and it’s directed at conduct at the polling place. There’s nothing specific in law prohibiting or contemplating the practice that you’ve mentioned about people taking pictures of their ballot and sharing it with their friends and family through Instagram or other various new technologically advanced media social networks,” she said.

There also are no specific rules regarding cell phones in Alaskan polling places. According to the Region One Elections Office, which includes Southeast, Prince William Sound, Kodiak and Kenai Peninsula, election workers are told to request a voter leave the polls only if their phone call is disruptive. Fenumiai said changing the statute to reflect our more hyper-connected times isn’t exactly a priority.

“I’d have to take some time to research that and consult with the Department of Law and see what their feeling is on this. But personally it’s something I wouldn’t do, but that’s just my own personal choice,” she said.

According to the Citizen Media Law Project, Alaska is one of 22 states that either do not expressly forbid sharing photos or have statutes that are considered unclear.

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