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Federal judge to hear evidence in Colorado 'ballot selfie' lawsuits Wednesday

Federal judge to hear evidence in Colorado 'ballot selfie' lawsuits Wednesday
Posted at 5:32 PM, Nov 01, 2016

DENVER – A federal judge will hear evidence Wednesday morning in two lawsuits filed last week that challenge Colorado’s law banning voters from taking pictures with their ballots.

The two lawsuits filed last week have been lumped in to one evidentiary hearing, which will begin at 9 a.m. in the U.S. District Court of Colorado Wednesday morning.

Both suits – one filed by a state representative and a young voter; the other filed by a spokeswoman for the Libertarian Party and two voters – challenge Colorado Revised Statute CRS §1-13-712, a law that has origins in the late 1800s and which forbids Coloradans from showing their completed ballots to anyone else or revealing how they voted.

The statute stems from a law first written in 1891 that said, “A voter who shall…allow his ballot to be seen by any person, with an apparent intention of letting it be known how he is about to vote…shall be punished by a fine of not less than five nor more than one hundred dollars.”

Among the defendants in the suits are Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams and Attorney General Cynthia Coffman.

The plaintiffs in both cases want a judge to issue a preliminary injunction against the state enforcing the law, saying portions of it violate free speech protections under the First and/or Fourteenth Amendments.

Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert said in support of the statute last week:

“We believe the current law protects the integrity of the election and protects voters from intimidation or inducement.  In fact, given Colorado’s unique election system and rise of social networking, the prohibition may be more important in Colorado than in other states and may be more timely today than ever.”

The “ballot selfie” issue has created headlines nationwide in the past week, as states have differing laws regarding taking pictures of one’s ballot. Singer Justin Timberlake was in hot water after posting a selfie with his ballot after he voted in Tennessee, though laws in that state are unclear.

A report by Vox says ballot selfies are legal in 22 states and Washington, D.C., illegal in 16 states, and the law is unclear in the remaining 13 states.

On Friday, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a similar rule banning “ballot selfies” in Michigan.

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