Voters would be allowed to take pictures of themselves casting ballots and showing their picks for president and other offices, under legislation introduced in the Ohio House Oct. 25.
The activity technically is illegal in Ohio, though the law isn't actively being enforced.
"If people are going to post a picture of their ballot, it shouldn't be a felony," said Rep. Niraj Antani (R-Miamisburg), who joined Rep. Mike Duffey (R-Westerville) in offering HB 609.
Ohio Revised Code generally bars voters from showing their ballots to others "with the apparent intention of letting it be known how the elector is about to vote." (There are exceptions for those helping disabled or illiterate voters.)
Josh Eck, a spokesman for Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted, said the section of state law that covers the issue was enacted before the current social media environment.
"This law was written before the age of selfies and social media, so it's clear lawmakers did not intend to limit anyone's free speech, but instead protect voters from intimidation," he said in a released statement. "The Secretary does not believe posting a photo of your vote on social media is a problem and would not have an issue with the legislature making that clarification in law. He does still recommend boards of elections consult their county prosecutor in the meantime as they would be responsible for enforcing the statute as it currently reads."
The issue has come to a head in other states, where courts have overturned ballot selfies bans, most recently this week in Michigan.
Antani said he isn't familiar with any cases of Ohioans being prosecuted for taking selfies in polling places. Still, under Ohio law as currently written, residents taking pictures of their own ballots and posting them online could face charges.
"It's a pretty ridiculous law, especially with the advent of technology -- that you can take a picture of your ballot and post it proudly to show who you voted for," he said.
Duffey added in a released statement, "In my mind, Ohio's law is clearly unconstitutional. The federal court in New Hampshire agreed. Some folks say, 'Well, this law is never enforced any-way, so why change it?' But I respond, 'Because it hurts our justice system to have laws that are unenforced.' It's not supposed to be a joke -- we should work to repeal unconstitutional laws. Period. This is free speech."
HB 609 would cover only pictures taken by voters of their own ballots. It would remain illegal to take photos of other peoples' ballots.
Duffey offered comparable legislation last session, but that bill did not move through Ohio House and Senate. Antani voiced hope that the legislation could be amended into a separate bill during the coming lame duck session or passed early next year.
Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.