How well do you know Maryland's election laws?

When singer Justin Timberlake snapped a photo of himself at the voting booth last week encouraging others to vote, it wasn't his get-out-the-vote message that got people talking. It was the almost-immediate comment by some after he posted the photo on Instagram that he was breaking the law.

While Timberlake was spared from punishment under the Tennessee law that bans voters from taking video or photos in the polling place, Marylanders who find themselves in violation of one of the state's various voting laws may not be so lucky.


In Maryland, state law forbids common-sense misdeeds like defacing, tampering with or removing voting records and equipment, destroying a certificate of candidacy or interfering with election officials. But there are other things that could land voters in hot water as well.

For example, voters can be charged with a misdemeanor and face up to a year in prison as well as a fine of between $50 and $1,000 for disturbing the peace and impeding election activities.

Anyone caught wagering or betting on elections, also a misdemeanor, could be subject to a $50 to $500 fine to be paid to the state as well as see their money wagered on the outcome of the election forfeited to county government.

For former prosecutor turned criminal defense attorney Randolph Rice, some of Maryland's laws regarding elections came as a surprise.

"You've probably never looked at it," said Rice, who posted a blog post earlier in the month about the state's election laws and the various consequences those found in violation could face. After the Timberlake photo kicked off a torrent of questions about the legality of taking voting selfies, Rice said he found himself interested in Maryland's laws on the topic.

For the record, he said, voters in Maryland are forbidden from using cell phones in the booth.

Rice said he found himself wondering how someone wagering on an election would get caught and what would happen to a person who unwittingly breaks one of the state's election rules.

"Some of those are felonies," he said, noting that many of the crimes come with minimum sentences.

Carroll County Election Director Katherine Berry said she couldn't think of any instances, to her knowledge, where Carroll voters were charged with any of Maryland's election crimes, but high tensions are nothing new at the polls.

"In the past, we've had incidents where the police have had to be called," she said, noting that some of the episodes have involved voters at primaries who become angry when they learn they cannot vote in a primary for a party of which they are not a member.

To help make sure no one impedes voting, Berry said election judges work to make sure those campaigning for candidates and handing out fliers are always kept at a legal distance from the voting sites. Individuals cannot campaign inside the polling place, but judges will not interfere with a voter who chooses to wear a button or shirt displaying his or her support for a candidate, so long as they only spend as much time inside the site as is necessary to cast their vote.

"It's all about disturbing the voting process," she said.

Rice said he is curious to see how this year's controversial election plays out and whether any Marylanders may find themselves in trouble with some of the state's election laws.

"As contentious as it is, it would not surprise me if you saw people getting into it, arguing their positions," he said.


In the meantime, he said, avoid the office election pool.