by Pam Zubeck
Today, State Senator Owen Hill (R-Colorado Springs) took the initiative to file a lawsuit against an outdated regulation that makes taking a picture of your ballot and sharing it on social media illegal in Colorado.
The law has drawn increasing statewide attention this election cycle, especially on social media networks where new and young voters in particular are sharing who they voted for and encouraging their friends to do the same.
Hill has witnessed a myriad of Colorado voters, friends, and constituents alike excitedly sharing their choice of candidates and initiatives on social media.
“And while exercising free speech, they now have to be worried about being prosecuted for participating in the political process or for encouraging discussion on the important civic choices facing our State,” Hill said. “We need to stand alongside all Colorado voters by fighting for this reform.”
“My generation, millennials, are sometimes known as the ‘selfie generation.’ That last thing we need is a law on the books that discourages voter participation and makes people afraid to share in political discourse in Colorado,” Hill pointed out.
Hill believes the lawsuit is an important step to protect voters’ free speech rights while still continuing to safeguard privacy and other necessary voter protections. There is also an opportunity to address this issue in the upcoming 2017 legislative session.
Michael Fransisco of MRD Law, the attorney who filed the documents this morning, is confident the case is both needed and straightforward:
“Everyone in Colorado should have the right to speak about their voting decisions, including the ubiquitous use of cell phone pictures to express a point,” Fransisco noted. “The First Amendment protects this valuable form of political discourse.”
“Courts across the country are recognizing that broad laws prohibiting ballot pictures are unconstitutional and we look forward to adding Colorado to the list of states where free speech about a voted ballot can be shared without fear of criminal prosecution,” Fransisco concluded.
The lawsuit explains that: “Speech about how one votes in an election rests at the core of political speech protected by the First Amendment. One particularly vivid way to speak about a decision to vote or not vote is to later share a picture of a marked ballot that has been turned in. Taking a picture of a voted ballot is increasingly popular.”
Unfortunately, Colorado has an outmoded statute making it a crime to “show” a ballot to “any person” in such a way “as to reveal its contents.”
“In a classic case of an overbroad law that restricts vast swaths of legal, protected speech in the name of preventing discrete bad acts, Colorado has chilled the Plaintiffs and countless other voters from being permitted to engage in the simple act of posting a photo of a ballot as a political expression,” the filing argues.
Senator Hill is joined by another plaintiff, Scott Romano, on the lawsuit. Romano is an 18-year-old University of Denver student who is voting for the first time in this election - he is also a registered Democrat.
“I believe this is a key way for common sense to prevail in Colorado politics. This isn’t a partisan issue - it’s about upholding our constitutional rights and advocating for the full participation of every registered Colorado voter,” Romano said.
“I’m grateful for Senator Hill’s lead on this important issue and I’m happy to join him as a co-plaintiff in the case.”