Justin Timberlake Takes Illegal Polling Place Selfie

By George Khoury, Esq. on October 27, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

If there was a game show category for 'laws that probably, most definitely, won't be enforced against Justin Timberlake,' the pop star's illegal polling place selfie would likely be a clue. On Tuesday, Timberlake broke Tennessee election law when he took a selfie in his polling place. Timberlake, who traveled from Los Angeles to Memphis, Tennessee in order to vote in person, luckily is not being investigated or charged.

While some might think that there is a double standard at play for celebrities, well, you might be right, but not enforcing polling place selfie laws is seemingly the new normal. There was one in Michigan recently struck down and it didn't involve celebrities. The law in Michigan prohibited voters from photographing their ballots and sharing their photographs on social media. The challenger cited First Amendment protections and the court agreed.

Is Timberlake's Selfie Really Illegal?

The selfie Timberlake took was posted on social media site Instagram with a non-partisan message encouraging voters to vote. He explains that he took the time to fly home to vote in person and encourages everyone else to make the time to also do so. However, his photo inside the polling place violates a Tennessee law prohibiting pictures from being taken at polling places. The prohibition was originally designed before selfies or cell phone cameras were a thing, which is why the law may seem odd and outdated.

When the laws against taking photos in polling places were passed, the purpose was to protect voters from intimidation and unwanted harassment. In olden days, having a picture taken was a much more significant event that usually required someone looking through the camera lens. Selfies were still rare enough to not be considered when these laws were put into effect.

Times and Camera Phones are Changing

With the proliferation of cell phone cameras, digital photography, the internet, and social media, sometimes old laws just don't seem to fit. For instance, the law that was recently left unenforced in Michigan was written before a time when a person could reasonably take a photo of their ballot without feeling like they just wasted film.

Polling place selfie laws across the nation are changing to fit the times. At this point, it looks like more states allow polling place selfies than don't. The AP has compiled this list of which states do and don't have polling place selfie laws.

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