Camera use is prohibited in voting booths and polling places in Michigan, but a new lawsuit is challenging the ban on "ballot selfies" in the name of free speech.

The Pillar of Law Institute filed a lawsuit on behalf of Michigan voter Joel Crookston in federal court on Friday, September 9. The lawsuit challenges state laws that prohibit camera use in voting booths and polling places.

Michigan rules specifically prohibit the use of cameras. A state document listing "election day offenses" says, "Persons shall not use video cameras, cell phone cameras or video recording, cameras, television or recording equipment in the polling place, except that broadcast stations and credentialed media may be permitted to briefly film from public area. Personnel working for broadcast stations or media shall not set up cameras in the polling place."

Michigan law 168.738 (2) adds that if a voter shows his or her ballot to anyone other than someone assisting or a child who is accompanying the voter to the booth, then "the ballot shall not be deposited in the ballot box, but shall be marked “rejected for exposure”, and shall be disposed of as are other rejected ballots."

In the 2012 election, Crookston photographed his write-in vote for a friend for Michigan State University trustee and posted the photo on Facebook.

The lawsuit says, "Compliance with the law and the Secretary’s orders requires Crookston to sacrifice his right to free speech under the First Amendment."

"Many voters take ballot selfies and post them to social media sites like Facebook on election day, and it is a powerful form of free speech," said Stephen Klein, Pillar attorney and lead counsel in the case. "This is not just a case against silly rules; it's a case against unconstitutional censorship."

The lawsuit also challenges the general photography ban, arguing that by treating "credentialed media" differently from voters the law violates free speech and equal protection under the Constitution.

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