Don't post photo of ballot on Facebook or Twitter, election officials warn

2012-11-06T07:00:00Z 2012-11-06T20:13:56Z Don't post photo of ballot on Facebook or Twitter, election officials warnThe Associated Press The Associated Press
November 06, 2012 7:00 am  • 

This has been reposted from May 25, 2012:


High-ranking members of both political parties were unaware that posting photos of completed ballots on Facebook or Twitter is illegal in Wisconsin, and they promised to quickly take down the posts Friday after election officials reminded voters of the law.

The law bars voters from showing their completed ballots to anyone. The intent is to prevent people from selling their votes and then showing their ballots as proof they voted as requested, Wisconsin Government Accountability Board spokesman Reid Magney said.

But some voters — including Wisconsin Democratic Party Chairman Mike Tate and St. Croix County Republican Party Chairman Jesse Garza — were unaware that the posts violated state law. Tate and Garza said they were immediately taking their photos down.

The violation is a Class I felony, punishable by up to 18 months in prison and a $10,000 fine. However, it's unlikely prosecutors would be aggressive about seeking charges.

"We're just pointing this out, that voters are not supposed to be doing this," Magney said. "We're not aware of anyone that's been charged as a result of this."

The warning comes ahead of Wisconsin's heated June 5 recall elections targeting Republican Gov. Scott Walker and five other elected Republicans. They were targeted for recall largely because of a law Walker pushed last year that essentially stripped most public workers of their collective bargaining rights. The law prompted tens of thousands of people to protest at the state Capitol.

Tate posted a photo Wednesday showing an absentee ballot marked for two Democrats — Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who is challenging Walker, and Madison firefighter Mahlon Mitchell, who is running against Republican Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch. Four state senators also are facing recall elections.

The caption read: "May have never been more proud of a vote than casting my ballot this am. For everyone who marched, canvassed, called and collected signatures; here is to you."

Tate told The Associated Press he posted the picture because he was proud to support Barrett and Mitchell. When told of the GAB's warning, he said he wasn't aware of the law.

"If that's the law I absolutely will take it down," he said. "And I'll encourage anyone else who's done so to take theirs down."

A similar picture showing Republican votes was posted Tuesday on Garza's Facebook page with the caption: "I just voted absentee. One vote for Walker and Kleefisch in the bank, 1.2 million to go!"

Garza also said he didn't intend to break any laws. He called the GAB warning "a good cautionary tale," but added that voters should have the right to show support for their candidates.

"I think they should revisit the law," he told AP. "I removed mine, and I know others removed theirs, but I should have the right to state who I support."

Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne said he couldn't immediately say whether he would charge voters who violated the law. He said he'd have to consider whether the post was meant to influence others, or if it were being used in connection with a vote-buying scheme.

"We'd obviously have to take a look at the facts," he said. "I guess you'd have to look at how the material was being used, what information was in the posting. But I'm not aware that anyone has been charged for that. This is the first I'm hearing of it."

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(16) Comments

  1. Gaille
    Report Abuse
    Gaille - November 18, 2012 8:55 pm
    Thank you for the warning. I wanted to post mine because I am proud of my vote. I think I should have the right to show my vote to anyone I want to if I a citizen in a democracy: Another disappointment regarding civil rights...Rights which seem to be constantly shrinking...
  2. Wolkomir
    Report Abuse
    Wolkomir - November 09, 2012 8:26 am
    Does this apply to videos of touch screen machines visibly flipping votes? See this as evidence of funny business with electronic voting...
  3. River
    Report Abuse
    River - November 06, 2012 9:59 pm
    I posted my winning ballot.
  4. PosterX
    Report Abuse
    PosterX - May 25, 2012 9:38 pm
    i plan to post my ballot on myspace...
  5. jheaton416
    Report Abuse
    jheaton416 - May 25, 2012 8:49 pm
    @WiseOne, a ballot is also a public record, just one for which no record is kept of who submitted it. After the election, you can go to any clerk's office and put in a public records request to see any or all of the ballots cast in this election. That's why a consortium of journalists was able to perform an independent recount of the November 2000 election in Florida.

    More importantly, the 1st Amendment gives any elector the absolute right to reveal how he or she voted, so this law would seem to be unconstitutional on its face.
  6. dante
    Report Abuse
    dante - May 25, 2012 7:59 pm
    I'd love to see the 1st amendment implications of a court case like this.

  7. Wise One
    Report Abuse
    Wise One - May 25, 2012 7:55 pm
    @Bella Here's the difference, when you sign a recall petition, you are signing a PUBLIC DOCUMENT (a petition) and therefore, your information becomes PUBLIC KNOWLEDGE that you are behind a particular action. However, voting is by secret ballot and no one is supposed to know who votes for whom. It is a private matter which is why we have secret ballots--so people can choose whom they wish to represent them without the arm twisters knowing whether their twists were successful with a particular person or not.
  8. Toomuchtaxes
    Report Abuse
    Toomuchtaxes - May 25, 2012 6:20 pm
    It would be nice if the writer would give more information about the voting law ,such as who wrote it and when::: There are so manny laws written and no one knows about it until it is used
  9. TheJudoon
    Report Abuse
    TheJudoon - May 25, 2012 6:08 pm
    Tune into PBS at 8pm tonight for the first debate between Gov. Walker and Mayor Barrett.

    You may want to set your DVR so you can compare what they actually say against what is reported tomorrow.
  10. dante
    Report Abuse
    dante - May 25, 2012 5:29 pm
    I'm pretty sure that any official ballots that are mailed out have the correct return address (since they're mailed out by the municipality).

    What happened last voting cycle was that absentee ballot *requests* were sent out to people, with a return address at the GOP party headquarters....
  11. Dode
    Report Abuse
    Dode - May 25, 2012 5:24 pm
    I hope Little Johnny Nichols posts a pic of his here!
  12. PosterX
    Report Abuse
    PosterX - May 25, 2012 4:45 pm
    Come at me GAB!
  13. Jambalaya
    Report Abuse
    Jambalaya - May 25, 2012 4:29 pm
    I hear that absentee ballot requests are being mailed to people who signed the recall petitions. But the return address listed is incorrect. Any truth to this?
  14. Report Abuse
    - May 25, 2012 4:27 pm

    Hopefully the voters that are pawns to the multi millions of $$$ from out of state and in state unions will not try this voter fraud, even though they are fraudulent.

  15. kickapoo101
    Report Abuse
    kickapoo101 - May 25, 2012 4:25 pm
    and union pawns
  16. Monitor
    Report Abuse
    Monitor - May 25, 2012 4:02 pm
    Thank you GAB for the warning and information. Hopefully the voters that are pawns to the multi millions of $$$ from out of state corporations and business people will not try this voter fraud, even though they are fraudulent.

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