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Snapchat is fighting to legalize ballot selfies

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The Clarion-Ledger-USA TODAY Sports

This election season, flaunting your civic responsibility by wearing badges and "I Voted" stickers won't quite cut it. With social media platforms absorbed into our culture, the voting booth selfie will be more popular than ever — even though, in some states, it’s technically banned. According to The New York Times, Snapchat, a favorite among younger voters, is fighting for their right to take photos in voting booths.

The social media giant filed an amicus brief against a ban on ballot selfies in New Hampshire on Friday. The complaint comes at the heels of an August 2015 ruling by a federal judge in New Hampshire that struck down a bill banning photos and videos in voting booths. The decision is still being appealed.

Get young people to vote

Laws banning photography in polling places are put in place to avoid voting fraud such as vote selling or coercion. However, Snapchat argues that there is no real proof of such a violation. Instead, it says ballot selfies and other digital-media friendly gestures of political engagement are no different than voter pins and badges, which encourage people to vote. To prove this point, Snapchat cited a study in the brief, showing that "online networks’ 'I Voted' buttons drove an additional 340,000 voters to the polls in the 2010 congressional elections."

However, lawmakers across the country are not on the same page. In some states, the ban is more of a policy or recommendation; in others, taking photos can result in severe legal repercussions. For instance, on Snapchat's home turf of California, cameras are banned in the booth. In Pennsylvania, taking a photo could get you a $1,000 fine or a year's worth of jail time. Taking photos in voting booths and polling places is completely legal in New York, but it is recommended that people do so before filling out their ballot.

All in the name of news

Snapchatting during voting generates a lot of traffic and user content for the social networking app. During this year's US presidential primaries, many people submitted to Live Stories  — a series of raw videos and pictures of an event or occasion submitted by Snapchat users and correspondents, strung together under one Story by Snapchat editors for everyone to see. Snapchat's news team has "published some of these Snaps as relevant and important parts of the organization's political news coverage," the Venice-based company said in its 26-page brief. It went on to suggest that a ban was unconstitutional and violated the First Amendment, especially since reporters were allowed to take photos in polling places but other citizens weren't.

The social media platform suggests that laws be put in place to protect individuals who wish to keep ballots private from overbearing reporters. However, the company is against the state imposing "an absolute ban that prevents even voters who want to share their ballot selfies with digital media news gatherers from doing so."