Sarah Palin’s early voting ballot, marked for Donald Trump, appears to defy the law in the state where she once served as governor. The Alaskan politician shared a photo of her ballot on social media, captioning it with commentary about her own campaign efforts.
The catch? In Alaska, according to ABC News, it’s against the law to photograph a marked voting ballot.
Palin posted the photo on social media on Thursday, alongside a photo of her family enjoying a sunset on the lake.
Although warnings regularly circulate around polling times that one should never photograph a ballot, fact-checking site Snopes notes that the answer is actually far more complicated, with laws varying by state. Alaska, however, does have a law regarding photography at the polls.
The primary question that would determine whether Sarah Palin violated Alaska law by photographing her ballot depends on a closer look at the ballot itself. Specifically, the text of the law forbids the voter to “exhibit” the ballot to any other person in a way that shows who the individual voted for.
“Subject to AS 15.15.240 a voter may not exhibit the voter’s ballot to an election official or any other person so as to enable any person to ascertain how the voter marked the ballot.”
Further, the law notes that if an election official is aware a ballot has been exhibited, it must be marked as “spoiled” and should be destroyed.
Thus, a few things come into play with Sarah Palin’s ballot: Did she exhibit it, marked so that other people could tell who she voted for, and were election officials aware she did so?
For the latter, the composition of the post is probably evidence that this isn’t the case. With the ballot showcased alongside another image, it seems likely the photo was reserved and the post composed outside the polling location.
For the initial question, though, one would have to assess whether Palin’s ballot was marked. After all, in the image, it’s clear that a circle is not filled in, though the pen tip hovers over the space beside Donald Trump’s name.
However, a closer look demonstrates that, while not fully filled in, the circle indicating a choice of Donald Trump and Mike Pence is partially marked, as the circle has been outlined as though in preparation for filling in.
Of course, it’s not as though Sarah Palin’s support of Donald Trump is a secret. She has spoken in support of him at rallies and posted openly on social media about him.
The former Alaska governor has officially endorsed Donald Trump for President of the United States.
So, her ballot isn’t a surprise and isn’t fully filled in. It may technically violate Alaska’s laws with regard to elections, but it’s unlikely to carry any consequences, for several reasons.
First, according to Fortune, Alaska Division of Elections Director Josie Bahnke has publicly stated that this particular portion of the law has no practical measures for enforcement.
Further, as the Huffington Post recently reported, several such laws have already been struck down as a violation of free speech, and at least one case of a public figure posting a ballot selfie has been raised, with a District Attorney declaring that there would be no investigation into the matter.
So, Sarah Palin’s ballot, partially marked for Donald Trump, may meet the basic definition of “exhibit[ing] the voter’s ballot to an election official or any other person so as to enable any person to ascertain how the voter marked the ballot.”
However, it is unlikely to be seen as demonstrating her support for Trump any more than her endorsement and other statements, and it is unlikely to result in any investigation. If anything, Sarah Palin’s Donald Trump marked ballot would be more likely to be protected as free speech, rather than treated as a violation of law.
[Featured Image by Joshua Lott/Getty Images]