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Our view: Ballot selfies and other election thoughts

Our view: Ballot selfies and other election thoughts

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Three thoughts on the upcoming election:

•What if we hired a president instead of electing one? It’s often fashionable to frame an election as a hiring decision (Senator Mark Warner is famous for this) or to say that government should be run like a business (usually a Republican formulation). The reality, though, is if a corporate board looking for a new chief executive was presented with Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, it would probably fire the headhunting firm — or at least send it back to find new candidates.

Trump would be plainly unqualified for the position. He has no relevant experience, no apparent aptitude for the tasks a president must perform (such as coalition-building) and no demonstrated depth of knowledge of the issues facing the country. Furthermore, any human resources officer would take one look at his “Access Hollywood” tape and say he represents a liability risk for sexual harassment lawsuits. He wouldn’t even qualify to work on the “Today” show; just ask Billy Bush.

Clinton might get a look; being Secretary of State was once the logical stepping-stone to the presidency. However, the presidency is a job that, by definition, requires handling the most top-secret of top-secret material. Having the FBI declare her handling of classified material in her previous post was “extremely careless” would surely be a disqualifier.

When did we become so paranoid? Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring recently issued a formal opinion — in response to queries from electoral boards in Goochland County and Isle of Wight County — in which he ruled that Virginians may indeed take pictures of themselves voting. Or, in the language of the times, a “ballot selfie.”

One alarmed reader recently sent us a letter-to-the-editor insisting that “the sole purpose of Democrats wanting to pass this” is so that voters can “provide positive evidence of who they voted for in order to be paid for their vote.”

To which we say: LOL.

A little history and some facts. One, some people take selfies of everything. And by everything, we really do mean, um, everything. Just saying.

Ballot selfies first became an issue in 2014, when New Hampshire banned them — on the theory that the ballot is so secret that not even the voter should be able to share a copy of how he or she voted. That fall, one New Hampshire voter unhappy with his choices for the U.S. Senate, posted a photo showing he voted for his dog instead. (For good measure, the dog was deceased at the time.) The state attorney general’s office started investigating; the voter fought back by suing the state — and a federal judge ruled that the state’s ban on “ballot selfies” constituted an infringement on voters’ free speech rights.

Ballot selfies became a really big deal, though, last year in Canada — which banned such photos in its national election, and saw lots of Canadians openly flout the ban. Now it’s 2016 and even Snapchat has gotten involved. New Hampshire is appealing the judge’s ruling. The Snapchat messaging service has filed a brief in the New Hampshire case, arguing that ballot selfies are “simply the latest way that voters, especially young voters, engage with the political process and show their civic pride.”

We have 50 states, though, and 50 different sets of election laws — some allow selfies, some don’t, some are unclear. That led the two electoral boards to ask Herring what Virginia’s law really says. His opinion points out that Virginia law specifically allows photography inside voting places — newspapers typically run shots of long lines of voters — as long as you don’t show how someone else is voting. However, Herring said, “the Code of Virginia is silent” on whether voters can take pictures of themselves. In the absence of a specific prohibition, he ruled that such “ballot selfies” are legal.

You could argue that this is actually a conservative ruling from the Democratic attorney general — that as long as government has done nothing to impose a ban, then voters retain their individual liberty to do as they please, as opposed to needing specific permission from the all-knowing government.

Ballot selfies may be silly. Ballot selfies may be an act of civic pride. But to suggest that ballot selfies are a vehicle to validate vote-buying is to not understand the zeitgeist.

Which candidate would do the most to help our local economy? That’s easy. It’s Pat McCrory, the Republican governor of North Carolina, who’s seeking his second four-year term in the November election. We can point to specific and multiple ways he has helped the economy — our economy. North Carolina panicked and made a spectacle of itself by passing HB2, its so-called “bathroom bill.” In response, various companies and even sports leagues pulled events from the state. Three of those have wound up in Salem — the NCAA Division III men’s and women’s soccer championships, as well as the Division II Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association football championship. That’s money in the bank for us.

McCrory has given Virginia a competitive advantage in economic development, as well. When the University Economic Development Association recently held its national conference in Roanoke, the keynote speaker highlighted a North Carolina program to encourage partnerships between colleges and companies, as a way help recruit technology companies interested in research and development. The speaker hailed it as a model for other states to follow as they try to build a “knowledge economy.” Then the speaker noted that McCrory had cancelled it. The pro-business audience groaned.

On Monday, a data company picked Richmond as the site for a new office, with 730 jobs. Industry officials said it beat out Charlotte specifically because of HB2.

Feel free to argue all you want which presidential candidate would be best, but it’s clear that Virginia would be best served if North Carolina re-elected McCrory.

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