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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Can you bring video camera's into Massachusetts polling places?

I emailed the Secretary of State of Massachusetts and asked if you can bring video camera's into Massachusetts polling places.

Here's the answer:
In Massachusetts, observers are allowed to be in the polling place, outside the guard rail. Observers, including media, can observe and video the election process from behind this guard rail. However, if there are too many observers to fit in the space, the warden at the polling place may ask such observers to pool their resources. This is generally a bigger issue for a video camera which usually requires additional space for such equipment.

A video camera is limited to viewing only the same as the observers. A video camera cannot be used to record audio of names being checked on the voter list pursuant to General Laws chapter 54, section 76. Also, the video cannot capture a voter actually marking their ballot (no zoom).

Further, pursuant to General laws chapter 56, section 25, it is against the law to allow the marking of his ballot to be seen by any person for any purpose. This includes a voter photographing their own ballot after marking it.

Based on information received from the National Association of Secretaries of State, it is our understanding that the “Video Your Vote” feature is seeking to capture an experience of a voter, using interviews after they have voted and outside of the polling place itself. Interviews inside the polling places in Massachusetts will not be allowed as they would interfere with and disrupt the voting process.

We hope this information is helpful and please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions.

Elections Division
I asked because of two campaigns.

1. YouTube - Video Your Vote:
"YouTube's Video Your Vote, a non-partisan program produced in partnership with PBS, encourages American voters to document their experiences at the polls on Election Day.

The Video Your Vote channel is also a one-stop-shop to view exclusive videos from voter registration experts, election reform activists, and state officials, as well as video footage from the PBS archives for a historical look at voting through the years.

You can also see exclusive footage produced by the online team at the News Hour with Jim Lehrer."

"On Election Day this November 4, PBS and YouTube invite you to join thousands of other citizens across the country to document democracy in action. Video Your Vote is a project designed to shed light on voting in America through the eyes of voters like you; and we're asking you to share videos of your experiences on Election Day and upload them to YouTube as soon as you've shot them -- ideally as early as possible on November 4th. "

2. Mass Vote - Eye on Democracy:
On November 4, 2008 millions of Massachusetts residents will go to their local polling places with the intention of voicing their opinion on who they want to be in their local, state, and national government. Most will have no problem casting their ballots on Election Day and will feel empowered. Some however will face administrative challenges that prevent their voices from being heard. Whatever the case may be, we want to hear their stories through you.

Eye on Democracy is a project of MassVOTE in coordination with: Suffolk University, The Hyams Foundation, Access Strategies Fund and The Boston Foundation.
Update - Here's another:

3. The New York Times - Photograph Your Polling Place:
The Polling Place Photo Project is a nationwide experiment in citizen journalism that encourages voters to capture, post and share photographs of this year’s primaries, caucuses and general election. By documenting local voting experiences, participants can contribute to an archive of photographs that captures the richness and complexity of voting in America.


  1. Thanks Steve, I wonder if it's the same in Nevada, I'll have to research that, because I have been thinking of doing the same thing, and now I see youtube has a campaign on it, very cool, we have early voting here till the 31st, so I am getting it in early or just upload it on the 4th on my blog. Thank you for the info though, have a good week.

  2. That is a huge bummer, Steve. I was really looking forward to recording myself voting this time around.

    Are you still going to record anyway? I can't imagine it would void my vote. Haha.

  3. Hi Jamie,

    You could still film in a way that does not show, "the marking of his ballot to be seen by any person for any purpose. This includes a voter photographing their own ballot after marking it."

    Must think like an artist.


  4. Anonymous7:59 PM

    How come I can't video my OWN vote? That I don't get. I'm willing to share my experience, and who I'm voting for (after it's stuffed in the box who really cares), so why should it be wrong?

    And where is the "guard rail" for observers? My polling place is in a school gym, and there is practically no one brave enough to go through the door for anything but voting. They find the scariest looking cop to stand guard. I'd love to observe, but I'd be afraid of arrest. Heck, he's so scary looking I'd be afraid of being told to move along!

    I kind of hate how the polling place is dead quiet, like a bad wake. It really needs a serious pick-me-up. Has anyone else noticed how it's all whispering and hushed tones? Weird.

  5. @rebecca:





    Offences by Voters

    Chapter 56: Section 25. Distinguishing marks; false statements or oaths

    Section 25. Whoever, at a primary, caucus or election, places any distinguishing mark upon his ballot, or makes a false statement as to his ability to mark his ballot, or allows the marking of his ballot to be seen by any person for any purpose not authorized by law, or gives a false answer to or makes a false oath before a presiding officer, shall be punished by imprisonment for not more than six months or by a fine of not more than one hundred dollars."

    This need updating.

    Seen here:

  6. Anonymous2:17 PM

    The biggest headache here won't be the law - which actually, with the Secretary of State's explanation, is pretty straightforward. "No interviews, don't show your completed ballot, or make any other voters exceptionally nervous."

    The challenge will be convincing the person in charge of the polling place - even if you bring the e-mail message from the SoS office.

    And once again Steve, you're a step ahead of me on this. :-)

  7. Anonymous3:16 PM

    Bummer, I was really looking forward to selling my vote for cold hard cash and document it with a picture of my ballot so my financeer has proof of my vote?