State Representatives Mike Duffey (R-Worthington) and Niraj Antani (R-Miamisburg) have introduced legislation to decriminalize free speech regarding voter ballots, an issue that has repeatedly surfaced in news media reports the past several elections as publications report the criminal liability to voters of posting social media photos that include their marked ballots.

“It is very common in Ohio and everywhere, really, for voters to post photos of their marked ballots on Facebook, Twitter and other social media applications,” said Rep. Antani. “But what most voters don’t know is that it is actually a felony in Ohio, although it is rarely, if ever, enforced by anyone.”

Such activity is currently illegal under Ohio law (ORC 3599.20) which states: “No person shall… allow the elector’s ballot to be seen by another… with the apparent intention of letting it be known how the elector is about to vote…”  The penalty is a 5th degree felony.

“In my mind, Ohio’s law is clearly unconstitutional,” said Rep. Duffey. “The federal court in New Hampshire agreed.  Some folks say, ‘Well, this law is never enforced anyway, so why change it?’ but I respond, ‘Because it hurts our justice system to have laws that are unenforced.’ It’s not supposed to be a joke - we should work to repeal unconstitutional laws. Period. This is free speech.”

Duffey and Antani say the ballot sharing law, historically created to prevent voter fraud and corruption, is unnecessary because ORC 3599 already prohibits the selling of votes, i.e. bribery.

“The section about showing your ballot is redundant,” said Duffey. “You don’t need it to catch people buying or selling votes. That’s already illegal under a different section of the same chapter.”

Rep. Duffey previously introduced legislation last general assembly to achieve this same result. To date, no progress has been made to fix the issue, so now Rep. Antani and Duffey are both pushing the fix, most likely for the beginning of next session.

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