A roll of stickers sits on the table of an election judge for distribution to voters as they cast their ballots in the atrium…
A roll of stickers sits on the table of an election judge for distribution to voters as they cast their ballots in the atrium of Ball Arena on Oct. 30, 2020, in Denver, Colorado.

In response to increased social media messages on how, where and when to vote in the U.S. general election, voters are posting proof that they cast their ballots.

Whether it is a photo of the ballot showing who someone voted for, or a selfie of the voter, an increase in mail-in and early voting amid the pandemic means more voters are posting their ballot selfies the week ahead of the election.

Whether these photos are legally allowed differs by state.

According to data from Ballotpedia, as of September, 25 states and the District of Columbia allow ballot selfies — photos of a completed ballot or a picture of a voter inside the polling place.

Because the popularity of ballot selfies rose in the past decade, most state laws govern whether photos can be taken inside polling places. But there are no clear rules on whether an absentee ballot can be photographed.

In West Virginia, Texas, Tennessee, Delaware and Arizona, photography and/or cellphones are banned at polling places. In 2016, pop star Justin Timberlake deleted a photo of himself casting his vote in Tennessee after learning it was prohibited by a 2015 state law.

In Maryland and Iowa, rules banning photography in polling places specifically state that photos of mail-in ballots are allowed.

But many states argue that photography of a ballot or in a voting place violates the promise of a “secret ballot.”

The secret ballot has long been perceived as an integral part of the U.S. democratic system, protecting voters from criticism or peer pressure and allowing them to fulfill their democratic privilege in private.

Additionally, some states have argued that documentation of ballots could promote an uptick in voter fraud and buying votes — allowing companies or individuals to force paid voters to give confirmation that they completed their vote.

In 2014, New Hampshire banned photos of ballots, citing the potential of vote-buying or influence. But the Supreme Court upheld a decision by a lower court in 2017 that the law violated free speech laws. Today, New Hampshire is one of the 25 states in which no laws govern how you document your voting process.

Proponents of documenting the voting process have said it encourages fellow citizens to exercise their right to vote. In response to this, several states have encouraged alternate ways for citizens to share their voting process.

The state of Georgia has promoted a “Post the Peach” campaign, encouraging citizens to post photos of their “I Voted” stickers, which in Georgia feature the state’s signature fruit. A similar #GoVoteTN initiative in Tennessee encourages voters to pose next to an “I Voted” sign.

Celebrities such as Lady Gaga and Lizzo have posted videos of themselves dropping their completed ballots in a designated drop box, without revealing the ballot itself.

What Happens Next?

What It Means to Become President-Elect in the US

In the United States, Democrat Joe Biden is being called the president-elect.

President-elect is a descriptive term not an official office. As such, Biden has no power in the government, and he would not until he is inaugurated at noon on January 20, 2021.

American news networks, which track all of the vote counting, determined on November 7 that Biden’s lead had become insurmountable in Pennsylvania, putting him over the 270 electoral votes needed to be president. Within minutes of determining his lead was mathematically assured, they projected him as the winner.

That is why news organizations, including VOA, are calling Biden the "projected winner."

Sometimes, in the case of particularly close elections, when news networks make this call, the other candidate does not concede victory. President Donald Trump has not done so, alleging voter fraud without substantial evidence and vowing to fight on. The president’s position has left Washington lawmakers divided, with Republicans backing a legal inquiry into allegations of vote fraud, even as they celebrate other congressional lawmakers who won their races.

When will the dispute be resolved?

The U.S. election won’t be officially certified for weeks. In the meantime, court challenges and state recounts could occur.

So far, the Trump administration has not provided evidence for any fraud that could overturn the result, but there is still time for more legal challenges.

Once states have certified the vote, pledged electors then cast their votes in the Electoral College in mid-December. Congress then certifies the overall Electoral College result in early January, about two weeks before Inauguration Day.