GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Judge Janet T. Neff of the United States District for the Western District of Michigan issued a preliminary injunction in the case Crookston v. Johnson today, ruling that state law must not prohibit plaintiff Joel Crookston and other Michigan voters from photographing their own marked ballots and posting them on social media.
In other words, the opinion rules that Michigan voters may take “ballot selfies” under the First Amendment.
“This is a big victory for a simple but powerful act of free speech,” said Stephen Klein, Pillar attorney and lead counsel in the case. “Under this ruling, Michigan voters may take pictures of their own marked ballots and post them to social media without fear of fines and imprisonment.”
Judge Neff rejected Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson’s arguments that ballot selfies could distract or intimidate voters in polling places or facilitate vote-buying as speculative, noting that other laws already prohibit and punish these activities, including displaying a marked ballot to other voters in a polling place instead of on social media after one has voted.
“This is not a case about disrupting the election process, but simply making sure the rules don’t go too far,” said Klein. “Under this ruling, a voter still cannot show his or her marked ballot to others in a polling place, but may take a photo of it in the voting booth before putting it in the envelope and submitting it. It’s that simple.”
The Crookston ruling is the latest in a series of free speech cases nationwide to recognize the First Amendment’s application to ballot selfies. This morning, Pillar filed another lawsuit against Colorado’s ban, which is similar Michigan’s.
The Pillar of Law Institute is a nonprofit public interest law firm. Located in Washington, DC, Pillar represents citizens nationwide against unconstitutional censorship of political speech. Patrick Jaicomo of the Michigan law firm Miller Johnson serves as co-counsel in the case.
Stephen Klein, Attorney