Elections

Are ballot selfies illegal in Kansas?

Sedgwick County Election Commissioner Tabitha Lehman said she has noticed a generational divide between voters on showing off their right to vote. She thinks older voters want their privacy when they vote, while younger voters are more prone to share their experience.
Sedgwick County Election Commissioner Tabitha Lehman said she has noticed a generational divide between voters on showing off their right to vote. She thinks older voters want their privacy when they vote, while younger voters are more prone to share their experience. File photo

To selfie or not to selfie?

With early voting underway and Election Day nearing, election officials across the country are faced with what to do about voters taking selfies to show off their civic participation.

In Kansas, state law prohibits unauthorized voting disclosure, which means “disclosing or exposing the contents of any ballot, whether cast in a regular or provisional manner.”

But Bryan Caskey, Kansas director of elections, said the state elections office thinks that applies only to ballot workers and other election officials.

Although this office does not think it is a good idea, we don’t think it is against the current law.

Bryan Caskey, Kansas director of elections

“It is the opinion of this office that the unauthorized voting disclosure law does not apply to voters,” he said Friday.

“Although this office does not think it is a good idea, we don’t think it is against the current law,” Caskey said about ballot selfies.

Sedgwick County Election Commissioner Tabitha Lehman said the secretary of state’s elections office advised her and other election officials during a conference call late this week that ballot selfies are legal. Earlier in the week, she had said ballot selfies were not legal.

“We are going to have to take the state’s position, discuss with county attorneys and come up with what our policy is here,” Lehman said. “We will be changing midstream. I don’t know how much we’re going to change here locally.”

“One of the things I am most concerned about is the privacy of other voters … and keeping the line moving,” she said. “We can’t have anything slowing down the voting process.”

Lehman said her office is still trying to make sure all election volunteers are up to speed on their training.

If you’re taking a selfie, no, we’re not going to calling the cops on you. (But) until we get that new training to them (poll workers), you might encounter a bit of an issue.

Tabitha Lehman, Sedgwick County election commissioner

“If you’re taking a selfie, no, we’re not going to be calling the cops on you,” Lehman said. “(But) until we get that new training to them (poll workers), you might encounter a bit of an issue.”

Lehman said she doesn’t think it’s a good idea for people to post photos of incomplete or blank ballots, either, because they contain markings used by poll workers.

“There’s reasoning that I would discourage posting the ballot at all,” she said.

Lehman said photos and videos should be kept to a minimum, even if people aren’t taking photos of their ballots.

“If people are busy taking pictures and that sort of thing, it can be distracting” to other voters, Lehman said. “We’re asking people to use common sense.”

At some polling locations, like the Historic Sedgwick County Courthouse, you can take a photo with a sign that says: “I voted. Have you?”

“We understand a lot of the reasons why people would post a selfie of a ballot. We’re trying to provide a way you can still take a selfie at the polling place,” Lehman said.

“We had some concerns but we still wanted to give people a way to share that excitement about voting,” she added.

The idea for the signs came from discussions with Sedgwick County communications staff.

“Everyone likes to document,” County Public Information Officer Kate Flavin said. “We’re trying to provide a safe space for them to do that without showing the contents of their ballot.”

Lehman said she has noticed a generational divide between voters on showing off their right to vote. She thinks older voters want their privacy when they vote, while younger voters are more prone to share their experience.

We had some concerns but we still wanted to give people a way to share that excitement about voting.

Tabitha Lehman, Sedgwick County election commissioner

“We’re trying to find something in the middle that will work for everybody,” she said.

Lehman said the signs have been popular so far. But she added that about 40 of those signs vanished from polling places during the Aug. 2 primary election.

“They are not to be taken home,” she said, chuckling.

Lehman said she doesn’t expect the desire for selfies in polling places to go away after Nov. 8.

“It’s not something we have time to police or monitor,” Lehman said. “But it’s something we’re going to continue to see growing.”

Daniel Salazar: 316-269-6791, @imdanielsalazar

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