The Virtue of Selfies-ness: Libertarians Fight for Free Speech at the Ballot Box

By Thomas L. Knapp

It’s finally election time — as I write this, early voting is already under way in many states. You may have already voted. Even if haven’t, you probably know who you’re voting for. But if you live in Colorado, it’s illegal to tell anyone who you voted for, or who you think someone else might have voted for.

Yes, really. It’s right there in black and white in Colorado Revised Statute  §1-13-712, section 3: “No election official, watcher, or person shall reveal to any other person the name of any candidate for whom a voter has voted or communicate to another his opinion, belief, or impression as to how or for whom a voter has voted.”

Caryn Ann Harlos objects. Strenuously. She’s the communications director of the Libertarian Party of Colorado and sits on the party’s national committee, so you can probably guess how she’s voting. But she’s not allowed to tell you, even though “communications” is right there in her job title.

Oh, and according to section 2 of the same law, you can’t ask her, either: “No person shall endeavor to induce any voter to show how he marked his ballot.”

Harlos petitioned Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman and Denver District Attorney Mich Morrissey to publicly recognize the blatant unconstitutionality of this law. They declined. So, in concert with two other plaintiffs and the aid of the libertarian Our America Initiative, Harlos filed suit  in US District Court. They’re asking, for among other things, a preliminary injunction and restraining order to protect voters, pollsters, journalists, and neighborhood gossips from arrest. The first hearing is scheduled for November 2nd.

Federal judges in New Hampshire and Michigan have already ruled against “ballot selfie” laws, as well they should have. It’s pretty much a constitutional slam-dunk. The act of voting doesn’t create an exception to your free speech rights. The scope of the Colorado law is particularly egregious. Coffman and Morrissey are wasting tax money — and disrespecting Colorado’s voters — by defending it.

The Libertarian Party’s candidates don’t win many elections. In fact, they usually come in a distant third in any three-way race. But Libertarian Party and libertarian movement activists are stepping up to defend your rights. If Caryn Ann Harlos has her way, you’ll be free not just to vote for a Democrat or Republican, but to publicly say you did so. Think about that when you enter the voting booth.

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Thomas Knapp -- Photo Credit Avens O'Brien

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.  He is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org).

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