What to expect when election judges debate selfies

Preparations are under way for a couple of events that will dominate the news in the next few months, Minnesota’s primary election on August 14 and the mid-term general election on November 6.

At a recent training session for Steele County’s election judges many routine topics were discussed; how to set up the polling place so everything flows smoothly, how to guide voters through the voting process and how to register new voters. Election judges were also told what they could and could not say to voters so as not to influence their votes.

But the topic that got the most discussion during the training was what to do about voters who wanted to take selfies. I understand that when people vote for the first time or participate in an important election, they want to have some kind of record of that event and share the news with others. And selfies are a popular choice for recording important events in peoples’ lives today.

The bottom line, the judges were told, is that they can’t stop people from taking selfies at the polling place but there are some important cautions that judges should point out to the selfie-loving public. First, remember that our voting system is based on the secret ballot. Revealing for whom you voted by posting a selfie on social media nullifies the whole concept of a secret ballot.

You may be asked to participate in an exit poll after you vote but the information you share in an exit poll will be anonymous. A selfie with you and your ballot is not.
Another consideration that was discussed is other people.

When people take selfies they are typically so focused on how they look in the picture that they don’t think about who or what is in the background. If you take a selfie at a polling place you may end up including in the picture one or more people who do not wish to be photographed.

The best option if you just have to have a selfie when you vote is to take the picture outside of the polling place. And, of course, be careful. Plenty of accidents happen when people are distracted just taking normal photos.

During one of the breaks one judge questioned why we even have polling places anymore. Why don’t we just vote online? But due to all of the attempts by foreign entities to influence the most recent presidential election using the power of the internet I don’t think online voting will come about any time soon.

Another topic that was discussed was how to determine if a person is a citizen and thus qualified to vote. There are many ways to do this but they all have one thing in common. A person is a citizen when the authorities of that country say he or she is a citizen. No one determines their own citizenship.

Some Christians believe our heavenly citizenship is something that is self-determined. We are citizens of heaven because we feel it in our hearts and have made a conscious decision to be Christians. Imagine if that was the way people became citizens of the US!

A more objective approach to heavenly citizenship is by being born again through the divinely instituted sacrament of Holy Baptism. Just as the authorities of a country are the ones who determine the citizenship of their people, so it is the authorities of heaven, namely, the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who bestow heavenly citizenship through the sacrament of Holy Baptism.

The election judges were told that, even if a person who is not a citizen votes, procedures are in place to catch and correct the error. If someone who is not a citizen is caught voting they will be charged with a felony. No one will ever fool God into thinking they are a citizen of heaven when in fact they are not.

There are also those who think God should abide by majority rule. He should go along with whatever the majority of people think should happen as we do in our country with elections. Good luck trying to get God to go along with that idea.

The majority of people who vote in our upcoming elections will go do so and then get back to their everyday lives. The thought of taking a selfie to mark the occasion will not even cross their minds. It’s just what one does as a citizen. Here in Steele County voters will encounter a group of well-trained election judges to assist them as they exercise one of our most important rights as citizens of this great land.

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