A landmark ruling in Wisconsin has dismissed a felony charge against school board candidate Paul H. Buzzell, who shared a photo of his marked ballot on Facebook.
The judge's ruling has ignited a national debate on the legality of 'ballot selfies,' their potential influence on elections, and the balance between free speech and election integrity.
The Case of Paul H. Buzzell
Paul Buzzell, a former board member who was re-elected in April, faced a felony charge under Wisconsin law for posting a photo of his filled-in ballot on Facebook. This act, often referred to as a 'ballot selfie,' could have led to a sentence of up to three and a half years in prison and a $10,000 fine. However, the Wisconsin judge presiding over his case ruled that the state law banning such behavior was overreaching and infringed upon constitutional freedoms.
The Broader Debate
The case has drawn national attention, symbolizing the broader debate over the legality and appropriateness of ballot selfies. While some argue that these selfies can inspire others to vote or demonstrate transparency, critics express concern that they could be used to facilitate vote buying or coercion. Wisconsin is one of the states with laws prohibiting the display of marked ballots, though attempts to change this have been unsuccessful.
In light of the judge's ruling, groups like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have voiced support, seeing it as a victory for free speech. However, the district attorney may seek an appeal from the attorney general. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Ozaukee County District Attorney Adam Gerol has vowed to ask Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul to review the decision, indicating that the debate over ballot selfies and their place in our democratic process is far from over.