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Ballot and Polling-Place Photos: Think Before You Instagram or Share

Joanna Stern/ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and all the other social media outlets you can imagine are on fire Tuesday with photos of people voting.  But before you snap a shot of your ballot or inside the polling place, you might want to think twice.

As pointed out by Pro Publica, the investigative journalism group in New York City, it is illegal to take a photo or a recording in polling centers in many states.  State laws in Florida, Texas, Kentucky, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina and Georgia, for instance, directly prohibit recording inside a polling place.

“No photography is permitted in the polling room or early-voting area,” Section 102.031(5) of the Florida statute says.

In addition to recording or taking photos in polling places, in many states -- including Alaska, New York, New Jersey and Utah -- taking a photo of one’s marked ballot and sharing it is also prohibited.  The Digital Media Law Project provides a breakdown by state of where it is prohibited or allowed to take photos or recordings in polling places.

“In Maryland and in many states, Instagraming the ballot or utilizing other recording devices while voting in a public place is prohibited,” Bradley Shear, a social media lawyer in Maryland, told ABC News.  “People should feel free to exercise their constitutional right to vote without fear that their votes may be captured and posted online for the entire world to see.  Therefore, it is good public policy to restrict the use of cameras and/or video in a public polling area.”

So, what is the penalty if you do it?

“In the states where it is prohibited, it is generally a misdemeanor.  Those are usually penalized by a fine and or up to a year in jail,” Jeffrey Hermes, the director of the Digital Media Law Project at Harvard University, told ABC News.  “Some states, most notably Hawaii and Michigan, have provisions for the disqualification of your vote if you disclose it publicly.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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