Federal Judge Blocks New Georgia Law Banning Photos of Voted Ballots

A United States federal judge has found that a part of Georgia’s new sweeping election laws that broadly prohibits taking photos of voted ballots is likely unconstitutional.

As reported by ABC News, U.S. District Judge J.P Boulee granted a preliminary injunction on that particular section of the new law, though he did not block a number of other provisions that mostly deal with monitoring or photographing parts of the election process. The injunction means that for now, that part of the law cannot be enforced.

The new law, which is known as SB 202, features a series of changes to Georgia’s election process, including the addition of voter ID requirements for mail-in ballots, shortening the time period when a mail-in ballot can be requested, reducing the number of ballot drop boxes in the Atalanta metro area, and giving the state board new powers to intervene in county elections offices including the ability to remove and replace local election officials.

While there are currently eight federal lawsuits that challenge parts of the election reform bill, the Coalition for Good Governance, which is an election integrity organization, filed one that targeted the particular section of the law that banned photos of completed ballots. Judge Boulee agreed that the Coalition had shown “a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of their claim” that the stated broad ban of photographing a ballot in both public and private places violated an individual’s First Amendment rights.

Boulee declined to block another provision that would prevent photographing or recording a person’s face while they are using a voting machine or while a voter’s selections are displayed.

The focus of these lawsuits is to challenge parts of the new laws that make it more difficult for voters to link their choices with those being logged by ballots, physical or digital. Photographing a completed ballot would in theory allow a voter to later prove a ballot was filled out a certain way if that appears to change later in the process. The same can be said about linking the photo of a voter with a completed ballot.

Those who wish to ban photos of completed ballots, or “ballot selfies” as they are sometimes referred, say the ability to photograph ballots and polling sites is a danger to secrecy and a disruption of the voting process.

New Hampshire attempted to ban photos of completed ballots in 2014, but the law was challenged and overturned in Federal court as a violation of the First Amendment. Judge Boulee may have made his decision to issue an injunction in this case by referencing that prior judgment.

“The Court’s striking of the Photography Ban was an important first step in demonstrating that SB202 is an overreach by lawmakers who prefer ballots to be counted behind closed doors, blocking the important oversight of the press and public,” Marilyn Marks, executive director of the Coalition for Good Governance says in a statement to ABC News.

Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger told ABC News that he’s confident that the new laws will stand up to all challenges.

“This decision is a clear victory for Georgia voters and common-sense election integrity reforms,” he says.

Image credits: Header photo licensed via Depositphotos.