Court rejects bid to revive ballot selfies ban

WASHINGTON (AP) — New Hampshire voters can keep taking pictures of themselves and their completed ballots.

The Supreme Court on Monday rejected the state’s bid to revive a law prohibiting voters from taking such pictures. The justices left in place lower court rulings that struck down the law as an unconstitutional restriction on voters’ free-speech rights.

The state had argued the ban was necessary to prevent vote buying and voter coercion. In the most recent ruling, the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals called it an overly broad solution to an unsubstantiated and hypothetical danger.

“We repeat the old adage: ‘a picture is worth a thousand words,’” the appeals court said.

Roughly two dozen states prohibit voters from sharing photos of themselves with their ballots. But those laws are under legal attack, with mixed results. Just before the November election, a judge in New York upheld that state’s prohibition on ballot selfies, while a judge in Colorado said voters could take pictures of themselves with their ballots.

New Hampshire’s law, which took effect in September 2014, made posting a photo of a completed ballot a violation punishable by a fine of up to $1,000. The American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire sued on behalf of three voters, including a man who voted for his dead dog because he didn’t approve of the candidates and posted a photo of the ballot online.

Gilles Bissonnette, legal director for ACLU-NH, called the Supreme Court’s decision a victory for the First Amendment.

“The best way to combat vote buying and voter coercion is to investigate and prosecute cases of vote buying and coercion, not ban innocent political speech,” he said. “Our hope is that, now that this case is finally over, other states will understand that they cannot ban this form of innocent political expression.”

The New Hampshire attorney general’s office declined to comment Monday.

Sotomayor talks to law students

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor talked to law students about her family, the collegial relationship among her fellow justices and the roles of passion and empathy in a legal career, but she made no mention of the U.S. Senate confirmation hearings of Neil Gorsuch in an appearance at Albany Law School Monday evening.

“We can disagree about the best answer, but it’s all born from the same passion about the law,” Sotomayor said in response to a student’s question about whether anger over differing judicial opinions makes it hard to have a collegial court. “What gets people to listen to you is your passion, not your anger.”

Sotomayor roamed through the lecture hall, at times embracing a student or posing for a group photo, as she talked about growing up in an extended Puerto Rican family in the Bronx and being a role model for young people. But she steered clear of politics.

Sotomayor was given with the school’s Kate Stoneman Award, presented annually to people in the legal profession who have demonstrated a commitment to seeking change and equal opportunities for women.

Sotomayor was nominated by President Barack Obama in 2009. She’s the third woman and first Latina to serve on the Supreme Court.


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