Photographing Elections

4 11 2008

IN1_FLAGEvery election, there seem to be issues about shooting pictures at the poll. This year, with the citizen journalism movement, it should be particularly interesting.

A couple of things to keep in mind:

– While a law banning photography inside the polls might exist, poll workers should not be able to keep you from photographing lines from the street, or from beyond the protective zone (usually 100 feet). If you stand by campaign signs, you will know that you are past the zone.

– If the public is allowed to take pictures, the media cannot be discriminated against simply because they are media.

– If you are working with a news organization, rely on their expertise and their lawyer for advice if there is a conflict.

– I have often found that even if poll workers at one site don’t allow photography, another location might not be so strict. Leaving and going somewhere else might be easier than staying and arguing.

– If there are irregularities, the case is more compelling for arguing to get in. But ultimately if you are ordered to leave, you should do so.

– Here is an interesting legal discussion on bans on photography and both prior restraint and controlling things by the “least restrictive means” which usually are violated by a complete ban on photography.

– Finally, and I confess I should have written this before, the best time to confront a bad law on election photography is BEFORE election day. There is not much you can do about it on the day, but the legal process can assist you if you plan ahead. I, know, this doesn’t help you now, but remember this in the future. After all we will face “the most important election in our lifetime,” again in four years.

Reminder: this is not legal advice. For that, consult a lawyer.


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