Pillar of Law Institute attorneys have filed a motion for preliminary injunction in Michigan federal court on behalf of Joel Crookston in the case Crookston v. Johnson. The case is a challenge against state laws and rules from Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson that prohibit citizen photography in polling places, including photographing and posting a picture of one’s own ballot on social media.
“We’re asking the court to allow Joel Crookston and other Michigan residents to simply do what many are already doing—snapping and posting voting selfies and ballot selfies on social networks,” said Stephen Klein, lead counsel in the case. “This is an exciting new form of free speech that should be welcomed by the State of Michigan, not prohibited.”
In the 2012 election, Crookston, a lifelong Michigan resident, snapped a photo of a write-in vote on part of his ballot and posted it on Facebook. Late this summer, after learning he could be charged with a misdemeanor for it, he decided to bring the lawsuit to protect his future ballot selfies.
“People have no reason to think this is illegal activity—indeed, most know instinctively this is free speech,” said Klein. “When Crookston learned he could forfeit his vote, be charged with a $500 fine and serve 90 days in jail just for snapping a photo of his own ballot, he decided to take a stand for the First Amendment.”
Last week Judge Janet T. Neff ordered an expedited briefing schedule to consider preliminary injunction. The Secretary of State, represented by Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, must respond to Crookston’s motion by next Monday, and Crookston will have seven days after that filing to submit a reply. After that, the motion may proceed to oral argument.
“We’re thankful that there is an opportunity for the Court to hear our case before election day, and to overturn the criminalization of civic pride and electoral advocacy,” said Klein.