An Illinois judge declared that the state law prohibiting ballot photos was unconstitutional, according to an article by the Belleville News-Democrat. On Election Day in 2016, a Madison County man attempted to take “ballot selfie” after voting. An election official told the Madison County man not to take a photo of his ballot. The reason was simple. Taking a photo of your ballot violates Illinois law.
In response, the Madison County man brought a lawsuit against the county clerk, contending that this law violates First Amendment rights. After considering the arguments of both parties, a Madison County associate judge declared the law unconstitutional.
Contained in 10 ILCS 5/29-9 and titled “Unlawful observation of voting,” Illinois law prohibits individuals from intentionally voting in a manner that “can be observed by another person.” Illinois law under the same section also prohibits individuals from intentionally observing “another person lawfully marking a ballot or lawfully casting his vote.”
Essentially, Illinois law exists to protect secrecy of the voting process and ballot box. By preventing individuals from sharing their vote or watching others voting, these laws defend against vote buying and voter intimidation.
If any individual commits either of the above-mentioned actions, that individual is guilty of a Class 4 felony. The sentence range for Class 4 felonies is one to three years, with an extended range of three to six years. The maximum fine for Class 4 felonies is $25,000. Moreover, Class 4 felonies carry a mandatory supervised release term of one year, with probation or conditional discharge of up to 30 months.
The Illinois legislature has also taken notice and introduced a bill to adjust 10 ILCS 5/29-9. Referred to as HB0388, the bill proposes to add language to the existing statues, making it legal for a voter to photograph his or her own ballot. The bill would also allow voters to view photographs of other ballots, opening the door for the sharing of ballot photos via social media.
That being said, HB0388 clearly prohibits paying for ballots or photos of ballots. Specifically, the bill provides that any person who “gives, promises to give, or receives any money or other valuable consideration” for a ballot photo is guilty of a Class 4 felony.
Overall, it seems the Illinois legislature intends to relax restrictions on ballot photos, while protecting against vote buying and voter intimidation. After passing a state House vote with an overwhelming majority, HB0388 is now awaiting a vote in the state Senate.
Do You Need Legal Advice?
No matter what the criminal offense, all criminal charges are serious. Without a sound strategy and an aggressive defense, you could miss out on your best chance for a positive outcome. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you understand the law and navigate toward an effective resolution.
Serving the counties of Dewitt, Ford, Livingston, Logan, McLean, Peoria, Tazewell and Woodford, The Prior Law Firm is located in Bloomington, Illinois. Our attorneys are dedicated to the practice of Illinois criminal law. If you need legal advice concerning any criminal offense, please do not hesitate to contact us immediately. You can reach The Prior Law Firm by phone at (309) 827-4300, email at firstname.lastname@example.org or online by completing a simple form.
(image courtesy of Toni Hukkanen)