In the age of social media, posting a photo of a marked ballot on Facebook or Twitter isn’t an election irregularity; it’s a sign of enthusiasm that could also prompt a voter’s friends and followers to head to the polls. Unfortunately, voting laws in Massachusetts haven’t quite caught up with technological advances.
It’s illegal to share a photo of your marked ballot; the ban is intended to discourage vote-buying, which could theoretically become more prevalent if would-be buyers can demand photographic proof. Secretary of State William Galvin isn’t exactly busting down doors to pursue violators of the law. But WBUR reported last week that after Boston Phoenix writer David Bernstein tweeted a photo of his own ballot, Galvin’s office contacted him to suggest that he remove it.
In fact, there might be other reasons to be discreet about your political choices — for instance, doing so may be a way of staying out of political consultants’ databases. But voters probably needn’t worry about encouraging an environment in which vote-buying thrives. Digital photos are easily altered, and anyone who tried to buy votes based on Facebook posts could be spending a lot of money for phonied-up pictures.
Last week’s election provided a few reasons to worry about the integrity of future elections: vast infusions of campaign money from unaccountable donors, long lines in some areas, ballots that are so long they hang out of the “privacy sleeves” that are supposed to conceal them. But there’s no sign that ballot photos on Twitter or Facebook pose any danger.