The passage couldn’t be clearer: “All votes shall be by secret ballot.”
Such is the wording of Article III, Section 3 in our Wisconsin constitution. Yet a relatively recent legislative effort could compromise that standard.
“Wisconsin voters would be allowed to take selfies with their marked election ballots under a proposal that a state Senate committee considered Tuesday,” reads the first sentence of a recent story by Scott Bauer of the Associated Press.
Wisconsin is one of 18 states that bars the showing of a completed ballot. It’s a good group in which to be — and remain — a member.
Supporters of the ill-advised measure to counter that law, Bauer reported, called the current rules archaic in an era in which voters are increasingly posting pictures of themselves and their marked ballots on social media.
That’s hardly a convincing argument. More people text and drive than in the past. That doesn’t make it right.
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County election clerks rightly voiced their opposition to the legislation, for which state Sen. Dave Craig, R-Big Bend, is a sponsor.
“There’s a really strong concern that this opens the door to undoing the secrecy of the ballot,” Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell said. “It’s a real concern that as it becomes commonplace to show your ballot, it’s going to be easier to coerce others to show their ballots.”
McDonell and Brown County Clerk Sandy Juno testified against the effort, as did the Wisconsin County Clerk Association. Concerns also included “how people legally taking photos in a polling location could infringe on the confidentiality rights of other voters,” reads the AP story.
In written testimony to the Senate Committee on Elections, Ethics and Rural Issues reported by Bauer, Rock County Clerk Lisa Tollefson said, “We have no problem with someone telling everyone how they voted. We just do not want to open the door to vote-selling and infringe on the right of other voters.”
Neither do we.
Bauer reported the clerks warned that making it common to show a marked ballot could lead employers, unions or others to reward or punish their people for voting a certain way. Bauer added that the committee chair, Sen. Kathy Bernier, R-Chippewa Falls, “dismissed those concerns ... citing existing laws against election bribery.”
Even if one subscribes to that notion, it doesn’t change the fact that allowing selfies in voting areas could infringe on the privacy rights of others. Why should a confidential act potentially be made less confidential?
This legislation presents a case in which the potential negatives far outweigh the positives. And we’re not even convinced of what the positives are.
— Liam Marlaire, assistant editor