Why Justin Timberlake's Selfie Almost Got Him in Trouble

October 25th 2016

Kyle Jaeger

Justin Timberlake taught us all a valuable lesson about selfies — and where not to take them — on Monday. In an Instagram post, the singer posed with a ballot and encouraged his followers to take advantage of early voting options. He may have inadvertently broken a state law in the process.

The law, which prohibits taking photos or videos at polling stations in Tennessee, is more common than you might think. An exhaustive analysis of state election laws by The Washington Post found that only 19 states (and D.C.) allow ballot selfies. Eighteen states explicitly forbid taking photos of ballots or inside polling stations generally. For the remaining 13 states, the legal status of ballot selfies is unclear — either because of pending legislation or conflicting rules.

Here are the states where you definitely shouldn't take a ballot selfie: Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

On Tuesday, officials announced that there would not be an investigation into Timberlake's selfie, The New York Daily News reported. But if the state had pressed charges over the ballot selfie, it'd be a misdemeanor offense "punishable by 30 days in jail and/or a $50 fine in Tennessee." It's a misdemeanor charge in the other states that ban ballot selfies, too — except Illinois, where intentionally filling out your ballot and sharing it with others is a felony punishable by one to three years in prison.

But don't let ballot selfie bans keep you away from the polls. Whether you're legally allowed to take photos of yourself performing your civic duty or not, consult your state's voting calendar to see if early voting is an option where you live. Register to vote here!

Update 10/25 5:54 pm PST: This story has been updated to include information about Shelby County District Attorney's decision not to investigate Timberlake's selfie.