Baltimore's top prosecutor posts, deletes ballot-box picture

Against state rules, Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby posted a ballot-box photo on Election Day.

Baltimore's top prosecutor posted on social media — then deleted — a ballot-box photo Tuesday. Taking pictures and video is banned in Maryland polling places.

The picture comes amid a flurry of media attention on voters taking selfies.

State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby posted to Twitter an image from what appeared to be the inside of a voting booth, showing one of her daughters looking over a blank ballot and holding a pen in her right hand.

Mosby wrote "We Voted Today" and "#We'reWithHer," and tagged Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

In Maryland, voters aren't allowed to take photos anywhere inside a polling location, let alone inside their ballot booth. State regulations ban cell phones, pagers, cameras or computer equipment anywhere in an early voting center or polling place.

"It's not allowed," said Nikki Baines Charlson, deputy administrator of elections for Maryland. "Voters can't use electronic devices in the polling place. When you're outside the voting room, that's fine. When you enter the room, all electronic devices need to be put away."

But it's also not against the law, according to the state prosecutor's office, which investigates election violations. The ban is a state regulation, and has no penalty. There is a separate law that prohibits copying or reproduction of ballots that carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail and/or a $250 fine.

Election workers, law enforcement and media are allowed to take photos in certain circumstances, Charlson said.

Voters are allowed to bring children into the polling location as well, though they may not participate in filling out the ballot, Charlson said.

Media outlets across the country evaluated rules on ballot pictures following controversy when pop star Justin Timberlake posted an early-voting selfie inside of a Tennessee polling place.

In some states, people who violate the law on photos in polling places can be prosecuted. In Tennessee, it's a misdemeanor crime punishable by 30 days in jail and/or a $50 fine, though authorities there said they would not be following up on Timberlake's case.

Courts have been reviewing challenges to such laws. A federal appeals court declared a New Hampshire law "facially unconstitutional" and said there was no reason to restrict voters from posting pictures of their ballots. A federal judge also ruled that Michigan's ban on ballot selfies couldn't be enforced.

The California legislature earlier this year passed a repeal of the state's ban on ballot photography, which was signed by the governor and will take effect Jan. 1.

Many Baltimore voters said at their polling locations, election workers made clear that phones were not be used. But in other locations, people said voters were casually using their phones — though no one reported seeing pictures taken.

jfenton@baltsun.com

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