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‘Free speech in the digital age’ this election day

Bans on election-year ballot selfies raise free speech, engagement concerns 

This election season, presidential hopeful and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton mused that selfie culture has changed the nature of her campaign trail conversations. Meeting voters was once an experience akin to a group therapy session, with potential voters lining up to share their stories. Today, the more common request isn’t for an ear, but for a snap that documents the meeting. That often leaves less room for conversation. 

Secretary Clinton’s acknowledgement is one that elected officials and government agencies need to hear: the way we communicate is evolving.

Hillary Clinton election year selfie

Photo: Barbara Kinney/Hillary for America

Live free or tweet: New Hampshire lifts its ballot selfie ban

Candidates must find new ways to adapt and connect – often digitally.  A new ruling in New Hampshire is the latest recognition of that shift. For the first time following a 2011 ban, this election day, it will be legal to take and share ballot photos in the state. The practice was previously outlawed when opponents suggested it could expose voters to bullying. But an ACLU suit – backed by Snap Inc. (née Snapchat) – claimed there was little evidence that any such bullying or vote-buying schemes had occurred.

Ballot selfie, PA election day

Careful where you ballot selfie – it might be illegal. (Image: GovTech)

The New Hampshire ruling fought back against a ban it successfully claimed suppressed freedom of speech. But there is even more at stake with a ban that pushes back against common uses of social media.

User-centric strategies make better cities

The best engagement strategies are built on finding people where they are. That means identifying the lowest barriers to entry, and reaching them with personalized, easy-to-use methods. Community design that hinges on feedback based on what constituents already like and do gets the most buy-in. Planners & civic data make sure it all comes to life safely and practically. When public programs are cancelled citing low adoption rates, a community-minded strategy that flows naturally downstream – as opposed to one which fights the tide – can have an easier time making the case for maintaining those offerings. 

election

Community open streets event replaces car traffic with yoga in Pittsburgh

A few ways that human-centric design is the future of how we plan our cities, legislate our policies and design our strategies:

Six states where it’s safe to selfie on E-Day

Back in the ballot booth, we’re seeing a suite that now adds New Hampshire to a stable of states allowing ballot box social photos: Maine, Oregon, Utah, California and Arizona among them. It’s the right thing to minimize vote-buying schemes and unfair influence, but without any evidence, a growing number of communities call this a pinch on the constitutional right to freedom of speech. States that follow suit will have to ask themselves whether the battle they want to pick is one that ignores what constituents and voters want. And if they can’t tweet or snap their choice, voters will have another chance to express their displeasure – with a vote on election day.

Contact dotgov@mediacause.org to keep talking with us about your government digital engagement strategy.

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Lindsay Crudele

lindsay@mediacause.org