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Mark Your Ballot. Tweet Your Ballot. Go to Jail.
YouTube wants your vote. And it could get you in trouble.
"We want to see and hear from you tomorrow," says the video-sharing site's official blog. "Whether you’re vlogging about which candidate you support, capturing footage of the long line at your polling place, or encouraging your friends to get out of the house and go vote, we’re inviting you to send us your Election Day videos."
Just don't use YouTube or Facebook or Twitter or any other social media service to post photographs of your completed ballot, or you may not be voting again for a while. Especially if you live in Wisconsin, where in advance of last summer's recall election the Government Accountability Board warned that doing so is a class 1 felony, "which could lead to a year and a half in prison and a $10,000 fine."
Massachusetts also has a low tolerance:
Whoever, at a primary, caucus or election, places any distinguishing mark upon his ballot, or makes a false statement as to his ability to mark his ballot, or allows the marking of his ballot to be seen by any person for any purpose not authorized by law, or gives a false answer to or makes a false oath before a presiding officer, shall be punished by imprisonment for not more than six months or by a fine of not more than one hundred dollars.
If you can't break your Instagram addiction, the Citizens Media Law Project has a handy chart of all state laws. While Alabama, North Dakota and a handful of other states don't seem to prohibit broadcasting your choice, voters in some other states might want to show a bit more caution. This New York user who posted his vote for Barack Obama -- along with a poke at "communist" Wisconsin's law -- should have consulted Article 17-130 of the state's election code, which prohibits showing a "ballot after it is prepared for voting, to any person so as to reveal the contents."
The combination of social media and our increasingly confessional culture made this sort of thing inevitable -- according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 22 percent of registered voters have let others know how they voted through social networking. But let's show some common sense before more people get terribly confused about votes not counting or, like this voter, do something drastic.
(Tobin Harshaw writes editorials on national security for Bloomberg View. Follow him on Twitter.)
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