Can I Photograph My Ballot? Probably Not

 Democratic Primary Ballot

Democratic Primary Ballot

I’d read before that the law was squishy about whether photographing one’s ballot was legal or tolerated, or not. Since I looked this law up today, I’m posting it here.

On this page, we provide a list of election laws, websites, and contact information for election officials in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Contacting your state election officials is a great way to get information about what your state allows in terms of documenting the vote. As you learn new information, please contact us and let us know how your state is handling these requests, so we can share that information on this site.

This page begins with a chart summarizing the law in each state in order to determine whether your state allows recording inside polling places. Click on your state for specific information and notes. For general guidelines on photography and videography in and around polling places, see the general Documenting the Vote 2012 page.

Select a state below to jump to its relevant information.


Contact Information: Illinois State Board of Elections Springfield Office: (217) 782-4141 Chicago Office: (312) 814-6440 E-mail:

Relevant Law:

Illinois Compiled Statutes, Chapter 5, Article 29

10 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/29-4 – Intimidation of voter

10 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/29-9 – Unlawful observation of voting

Illinois Compiled Statutes, Chapter 5, Article 17 10 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/17-29 – 100-foot zone


10 Ill. Comp. Stat 5/29-9 states that “any person who knowingly marks his ballot or casts his vote on a voting machine or voting device so that it can be observed by another person, and any person who knowingly observes another person lawfully marking a ballot or lawfully casting his vote on a voting machine or voting device, shall be guilty of a Class 4 felony.” It is not clear whether this provision would apply to display of a ballot after it has been marked, or just to the actual act of marking the ballot. If the latter interpretation were followed, it would still be unlawful to livestream your activities in the voting booth, and possibly to post video of your filling out your ballot.

(click here to continue reading State Law: Documenting the Vote 2012 | Digital Media Law Project.)

Ancient Ritual
Ancient Ritual

As far as I can tell, nobody has been prosecuted in Illinois for photographing an actual ballot since smartphones became prevalent, but to my non-lawyer eyes, the law is not crystal clear. Even still, why risk it? 

And from a 2014 article:

Illinois: According to state election code, voters are not allowed to take pictures of their marked ballots and show them to other people. Doing so could result in a class 4 felony. Bernadette Harrington, legal counsel for the Illinois State Board of Elections, said that there is no specific prohibition on photography in a polling place, although taking a photo of another person’s marked ballot is barred. Verdict: Ballot photography banned. Polling place photography allowed.

(click here to continue reading A Guide To Not Getting Arrested When You Use Your Cell Phone On Election Day.)

Photographing In Museums Is Not A Crime, Nor Even a Misdemeanor

Warhol DRM
Warhol DRM at the MCA

About time museums figured this out

Deborah Solomon writes:

Nonetheless, the vogue for digital photography is a constructive development that, for the most part, enhances our experience of art. First, there is the eye factor. A visitor who photographs van Gogh’s “Starry Night” echoes, however wanly or casually, the basic mission of visual art: to celebrate the act of looking. When you gaze through a lens, you are likely to consider the world more deeply. You frame space and take note of composition, the curve of a line, the play of light and shadow. As the photographer Dorothea Lange noted, “The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.”

As an aid to art education, smartphone cameras are preferable to older devices. Consider Acoustiguides, which offer a blizzard of facts in the place of soulful communication and create a buzzing sound in the galleries that can cause you to wonder, “Am I hearing voices?”

Unlike Acoustiguides, photographs go home with you and offer long-term benefits. For art-history students, iPhone photographs are an earnest reference aid, a crystalline substitute for hard-to-decipher notes.

For everyone else, digital photographs work in much the same way as art postcards did in their heyday a half-century ago when museum gift shops devoted more display space to them. On a recent trip to the Museum of Modern Art, I admired a plastic handbag in the gift shop, peeked at the price — $595, an Issey Miyake! — and ached for the humble Picasso postcards of my childhood.

Astoundingly, there are still a handful of museums that prohibit photography altogether.


(click here to continue reading Hey ‘Starry Night,’ Say ‘Cheese!’ –

Violence Inherent in the System
Violence Inherent in the System

Flavin tunnel with Marty Spellerberg
Flavin tunnel with Marty Spellerberg at the MCA

Speaking for myself, I like to take photographs of paintings and other museum pieces occasionally, to study the art at my leisure, or otherwise use the photograph as a memory guide. I try to be respectful of other patrons, and of course, not use flash – which some have plausibly asserted will damage an artwork over time. Some museums are simply unfriendly to photographers however, and treat patrons as criminals or vandals in need of a stern lecture.

Ms. Solomon continues:

Museums have lately begun to rethink loan contracts and to encourage lenders to be less possessive with their artwork. “In the past year we have been making strides to loosen our policy,” Maxwell L. Anderson, the director of the Dallas Museum of Art, noted in an e-mail. “We now routinely attempt to negotiate with all of our lenders to allow photography of their works while on display in the galleries. We have included that express permission in our own loan letters and contracts.” The change, he notes, should put an end to confrontations between guards and visitors. “It is far more important for our gallery attendants to focus on the safety of the works of art and our visitors than to have to constantly admonish our visitors, ‘No photographs!’ ”

As subtle as that point may seem, the new loan arrangements represent a sea change. Or rather a see change. We are at the tipping point where art museums are poised to become copying centers whose every single artwork can be reproduced in digital form a million times every day.

I say hooray. When we photograph, e-mail, tweet and Instagram paintings, we capitalize on technological innovation to expand familiarity with an ancient form. So, too, we increase the visual literacy of this country. Much can be gained. Nothing can be lost. A photograph of a painting can no more destroy a masterpiece than it can create one.


Max Ernst - Spanish Physician
Max Ernst – Spanish Physician

Madonna of the Splinter - Vatican Museum, 1993
Madonna of the Splinter – Vatican Museum, 1993

Looking At Lolita (Sue Lyon)
Looking At Lolita (Sue Lyon)

ACLU sues Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department

No Photos - Gentlemen Please Remove Your Hats
No Photos – Gentlemen Please Remove Your Hats

Photography is not a crime, part the 234,642nd. Kudos to the ACLU…

The ACLU of Southern California sued the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and several of its deputies Thursday alleging they harassed, detained and improperly searched photographers taking pictures legally in public places.

The federal lawsuit alleges the Sheriff’s Department and deputies “have repeatedly” subjected photographers “to detention, search and interrogation simply because they took pictures” from public streets of places such as Metro turnstiles, oil refineries or near a Long Beach courthouse.

“Photography is not a crime. It’s protected 1st Amendment expression,” said Peter Bibring, senior staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. “It violates the Constitution’s core protections for sheriff’s deputies to detain and search people who are doing nothing wrong. To single them out for such treatment while they’re pursuing a constitutionally protected activity is doubly wrong.”

(click here to continue reading ACLU sues Sheriff’s Department, alleges photographers were harassed –

Photography is Not A Crime
Photography is Not A Crime

and from the ACLU:

The ACLU of Southern California (ACLU/SC) and the law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP today sued the County of Los Angeles and individual Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department (LASD) deputies for detaining and searching photographers. The incidents of harassment occurred when photographers were taking pictures in public places where photography is not prohibited.

“Photography is not a crime. It’s protected First Amendment expression,” said Peter Bibring, senior staff attorney at the ACLU/SC. “Sheriff’s deputies violate the Constitution’s core protections when they detain and search people who are doing nothing wrong. To single them out for such treatment while they’re pursuing a constitutionally protected activity is doubly wrong.”

The complaint is filed on behalf of three plaintiffs, who between them have been detained or ordered not to photograph by Sheriff’s deputies on at least six occasions. The complaint details similar incidents involving others, from amateur photographers to veteran photojournalists.

(click here to continue reading ACLU/SC Challenges Sheriff’s Dept.’s Detention of Photographers.)

links for 2011-08-15


Rasputin with Bachman Eyes

CTA Unaware of Its Photography Policy

CTA Gleaming

The Chicago Transit Authority apparently does not ensure that its own employees are aware of CTA photography policy, which reads:

The general public is permitted to use hand-held cameras to take photographs, capture digital images, and videotape within public areas of CTA stations and transit vehicles for personal, non-commercial use.

Large cameras, photo or video equipment, or ancillary equipment such as lighting, tripods, cables, etc. are prohibited (except in instances where commercial and professional photographers enter into contractual agreements with CTA).

All photographers and videographers are prohibited from entering, photographing, or videotaping non-public areas of the CTA’s transit system.

All photographers and videographers are prohibited from impeding customer traffic flow, obstructing transit operations, interfering with customers, blocking doors or stairs, and affecting the safety of CTA, its employees, or customers. All photographers and videographers must fully and immediately comply with any requests, directions, or instructions of CTA personnel related to safety concerns.

For everyone’s safety, do not use a camera’s flash if facing a person who is operating a train or bus.

Be respectful of others – CTA customers and employees.

Don’t stand (or cause others to stand) in the way of stairs, aisles, escalators or doorways.

Be careful! Your safety is very important to us, so stay away from platform edges and moving vehicles.

Be safe! Don’t inch backward with your camera to get a wider view – always look where you’re going.

While on CTA premises, all photographers and videographers must comply with all applicable rules, including but not limited to, this policy, all applicable laws, ordinances, municipal regulations, standard operating procedures, and administrative procedures. CTA personnel may evaluate the actions of a photographer or a videographer, and if a determination is made that the actions of a photographer or videographer are not in compliance with any applicable rule, CTA personnel may terminate the permission granted by this policy.


CTA facilities and vehicles are for the exclusive use of the CTA, its employees, and its customers. Any and all permission granted to photograph and videotape in connection with this policy is subordinate to the CTA’s obligations to its customers, employees and to the general public. Loitering at CTA stations for extended periods for the purpose of taking photographs or video is prohibited.


(click here to continue reading Photography & Video Policy | CTA.)

Cab 6570

Geoff mentioned (on Facebook) that he was told not to photograph in the El during his recent visit here:

I got hassled in Chicago because I took a photo in the subway station.

…The employee who accosted me said “We just took another tourist in the back for an hour. Please don’t make us do it again.” Do they really detain people?

I doubt very much the CTA even has a back room they use to browbeat tourists, but who would want to risk it?

Mysteries of time

This isn’t a new problem, but sadly, it keeps occurring. Olivia Leigh wrote about her experience with CTA harassment for the Chicagoist, back in 2007:

Take a quick look through Flickr, and you’ll see that the CTA is one of the most popular subjects for photographers’ lenses. Interesting architecture, intriguing people, and a nice dose of urban decay all beg to be photographed. We were similarly inspired last weekend while waiting for a brown line train at the Belmont “L” stop. After taking a photo of the view toward the end of the platform, and two snapshots of a glimpse down Belmont in between train cars, we were approached by a CTA employee who told me that us to stop taking photographs, as they were not allowed. We politely said we would stop, but we believed he was incorrect about the photography policy. His tone turned gruff quite quickly, and he said, “I know the rules. You can’t take pictures here. I work for the CTA.” We once again politely stated said that we understood, but said I did not believe that was the policy. The employee then said, “I could send you to jail for taking these pictures, so stop arguing with me!”

…We also asked Gaffney1 for her recommendations for photographers who encounter harassment while photographing the CTA. She replied that the “customer should ask for a supervisor or contact customer service if the employee does not know the procedures regarding photography. Additionally, if photographers “encounter an employee who is not as well versed in the policy as he or she should be…photographers should report the location, date, time and employee id # (if possible) to CTA customer service so that the employee can be retrained.” After hearing of an employee threatening to take a camera from a photographer, we asked if employees would ever have the recourse to seize cameras. Gaffney replied that employees “should not take any cameras,” and instead should notify the control center to call the police if there is “suspicious behavior” (so perhaps we could have gone to jail?).

If you think this sounds a trifle confusing, you’re not alone. While we applaud the CTA for never proposing a ban on photography, unlike some other major metropolitan transportation services, the policy is extremely vague, left to the subjective views of CTA employees who may not be properly trained on identifying suspicious behavior. Gaffney noted that people “take photographs all the time without incident”; however, the number of people who have had difficulties, nearly all of whom we would venture to guess are merely photography enthusiasts, are not insignificant.

(click here to continue reading Getting to the Bottom of the CTA Photography Policy: Chicagoist.)

Are We Really Free

The CTA system has a great attraction for photographers, both tourists, and residents. The tracks, trains, buses and stations define the city, both good and bad, and it is a shame that the CTA employees are giving the city a bad name by being jerks. For the record, I’ve taken hundreds2 of photos of various aspects of the CTA infrastructure and employees/passengers, and have not yet gotten more than a dirty look or two. I guess my time will come, eventually, we’ll see what happens when employees are contradicted by facts. They are not always pleased.

Station hopping shuffler

  1. CTA Vice President of Marketing and Communications, Noelle Gaffney []
  2. or more – after a while, hard to keep track []

Reading Around on January 18th through January 20th

A few interesting links collected January 18th through January 20th:

  • Change of Subject: W.W.R.D? — What Would the Republicans Do? – [Republicans]

    now control the U.S. Senate, 41 votes to 59.The Democrats, based on this one very notable setback, seem poised now to attempt a strategy of retreat and appeasement, exactly as is being demanded by their harshest critics on Fox News. Evan Bayh, Barney Frank and the coalition of the pouty and lily livered seem to think voters in the fall will be drawn to the sight of their fluttering white flags.

  • Chicago Transit Authority urges commuters to report photographers | Photography is Not a Crime

    The Chicago Transit Authority is so “committed to safety,” that it is urging commuters to report people committing “excessive photography/filming.” The sign posted inside the train stations places photographers on the same level as, say, a non-CTA employee walking the tracks or an unattended package or “noxious smells or smoke.”

    In other words, it accuses photographers of being possible terrorists or just suicidal maniacs.

    The problem is that these signs not only encourage commuters to dial 911 when seeing someone taking photos, which will tie up real emergencies, it contradicts the CTA’s own policy on photography and videography within train stations

  • Econundrum: 10 Eco-Apps for Your iPhone | Mother Jones – Econundrum: 10 Eco-Apps for Your iPhone

BBC photographers are not a criminals either

So how many photos of St Paul’s Cathedral are taken every day? How easy would it be for someone to find a photo without even having to visit London? Pretty easy, methinks.1 Or just purchase a postcard, usually sold right in front of the building in question. And of course, what terrorist needs to have snapped art photos of architecturally and culturally significant buildings before planning their attack? None, remember? It’s just a movie plot, never happened in real life.

A BBC photographer was stopped from taking a picture of the sun setting by St Paul’s Cathedral in London. A real police officer and a fake “community support officer” stopped the photog and said he couldn’t take any pictures because with his professional-style camera, he might be an “al Qaeda operative” on a “scouting mission.” Now, St Paul’s is one of the most photographed buildings in the world (luckily, there is zero evidence that terrorists need photographs to plan their attacks), and presumably a smart al Qaeda operative with a yen to get some snaps would use a tiny tourist camera — or a hidden camera in his buttonhole. An ex-MP2 goes on to describe being stopped for talking into a hand-sized dictaphone in Trafalgar Square (where thousands of people talking in their phones — most of which have dictaphone capabilities — can be seen at any given time).

The real damage from terrorist attacks doesn’t come from the explosion. The real damage is done after the explosion, by the victims, who repeatedly and determinedly attack themselves, giving over reason in favor of terror. Every London cop who stops someone from taking a picture of a public building, every TSA agent who takes away your kid’s toothpaste, every NSA spook who wiretaps your email, does the terrorist’s job for him. Terrorism is about magnifying one mediagenic act of violence into one hundred billion acts of terrorized authoritarian idiocy. There were two al Qaeda operatives at St Paul’s that day: the cop and her sidekick, who were about Osama bin Laden’s business in London all day long.

[Click to continue reading BBC photographer prevented from shooting St Paul’s because he might be “al Qaeda operative” – Boing Boing]


video interview at the BBC:

BBC News photographer Jeff Overs was stopped and questioned for taking photographs in Westminster.
Speaking on The Andrew Marr Show, for which he takes photographs, Mr Overs said he was worried that policing against terrorism was making the UK feel like “the Eastern Bloc”.

[Click to continue reading BBC News – BBC photographer on being stopped by police]

Know Your Rights! These Are Your Rights!3 /4


  1. 54,464 items just at Flickr []
  2. Mathew Parris []
  3. apologies to The Clash. This is a public service announcement. With guitars! []
  4. Bert Krages Photographer’s Right in handy PDF form []

FBI and their new Mission

I mean, what is the FBI going to say? “Well, there are a lot of stupid people accusing others of being terrorists, and we don’t have the mental energy to examine all of the leads.” Of course not. Still, perhaps they’ll stop harassing photographers one of these days:

The bureau now ranks fighting terrorism as its No. 1 priority. It has doubled the number of agents assigned to counterterrorism duties to roughly 5,000 people, and has created new squads across the country that focus more on deterring and disrupting terrorism than on solving crimes.

But the manpower costs of this focus are steep, and the benefits not always clear. Of the 5,500 leads that the squad has pursued since it was formed five years ago, only 5 percent have been found credible enough to be sent to permanent F.B.I. squads for longer-term investigations, said Supervisory Special Agent Kristen von KleinSmid, head of the squad. Only a handful of those cases have resulted in criminal prosecutions or other law enforcement action, and none have foiled a specific terrorist plot, the authorities acknowledge.

Security guards have questioned people taking pictures of oil refineries in the Los Angeles area. Many turned out to be college students fulfilling assignment for class projects.

[Click to continue reading F.B.I. Agents’ Role Is Transformed by Terror Fight –]

Photography is not a crime, remember?

Zazzle and Dale Chihuly suck

A while ago1, before Flickr became my website of choice to host photos, I made some t-shirts and posters at the online print shop, Zazzle, from photos I took. I made a few for myself, but afterwords, left the account there, active, in case somebody stumbled upon one of my designs and decided to buy it. Not likely actually, and exactly zero people have done so in the six years or so I had the account.2

Today I got an email from Zazzle, reading:

Thank you for your interest in, and thank you for publishing products on Zazzle.

Unfortunately, it appears that your product, Garfield Conservatory, contains content that is not suitable for printing at

We will be removing this product from the Zazzle Marketplace shortly.

The details of the product being removed are listed below:

• Product Title: Garfield Conservatory

• Product Type: Print

• Product ID: 228639274743114826

• Result: Not Approved

• Policy Violations:

o Design contains an image or text that is copyrighted.

If you are interested in purchasing Official Licensed Merchandise from Zazzle please visit:

I’m pretty sure the image was this photo of a Chihuly exhibition at Garfield Conservatory.3

Garfield Redjar susume.jpg

Notice that I had modded the image in Photoshop so that it resembled nothing so much as just a magic marker sketch4. So for all the Zazzle zealots knew, I drew the image by hand. Is copyright law really that much in favor of factory artists like Chihuly? He’s famous for churning out thousands of glass pieces in his sweatshop, touching none of them, having his interns do all the actual work, he just markets the pieces. So my manipulated photo violated this copyright, somehow. Seems like this would be protected under “fair use” doctrine, especially since it isn’t a straight photo.

Strange world we live in.

I have deleted the remaining four items that were still listed at Zazzle, and have requested my account be deleted as well.

Funny also, on the Chihuly wikipedia page:

In 2006, Chihuly filed a lawsuit against a pair of glassblowers, including Robert Kaindl, whom he accused of copying his work. Chihuly was unsuccessful: the glass blower federation argued that Chihuly’s designs feature basic shapes; therefore any novice would be able to create the spiral glass which is featured in many of Chihuly’s composition

Looking at the simple vase floating in a pond – how could you copyright something as mundane?

  1. somewhere around 2003 []
  2. of course, I haven’t added any new items there in six years either – my initial experience was pretty shitty to tell the truth. The shirts were poor quality and the prints faded within a few wash cycles. I recall the entire “creation” process being incredibly awkward and cumbersome – the tools were poorly engineered and clunky. They might have improved since 2003, or maybe not []
  3. can’t tell for sure because the image had already been deleted and long ago that Google cache no longer had a copy []
  4. my Photoshop skills not that polished at this time. Ahem. []

Reading Around on August 10th through August 11th

A few interesting links collected August 10th through August 11th:

  • Which Tweets Matter ? – icerocket has added a Twitter search function, and allows a searcher to save more than the 10 searches that Twitter restricts a searcher to.
  • art-gop-fascism-poster.jpg
  • Nearly Getting Arrested in Downtown Atlanta – “I had a run-in with the law this evening while I was with my friends Scott Kublin and Rick Shearer. Just next door to the Olympic Park is the aquarium and the Coke Museum with a big field in between. There were about a fifty people or so there at the park. I set up my tripod to take a photo of downtown and the Coke Museum was in the middle of the shot. A female cop of came over and told me I had to take down the tripod because I looked like a professional. Coke does not allow that, so she said. I said I’m a blogger with expensive toys and hardly a threat. Then she got quite huffy and agitated before telling me if I did not take down the tripod that I would be arrested.”
  • Condi_greece2.jpg
  • Let’s talk about tasers – “Tasers are routinely used by police to torture innocent people who have not broken any law and whose only crime is being disrespectful toward their authority or failing to understand their “orders.” There is ample evidence that police often take no more than 30 seconds to talk to citizens before employing the taser, they use them while people are already handcuffed and thus present no danger, and are used often against the mentally ill and handicapped. It is becoming a barbaric tool of authoritarian, social control.”