VOL. 131 | NO. 221 | Friday, November 4, 2016
Memphis Legislators Call For Repeal of Polling Place Selfie Ban
By Bill Dries
On the last day of early voting in Shelby County Thursday, Nov. 3, Democratic state Representative G. A. Hardaway walked into the early voting site at Glenview Community Center in South Memphis.
Once he was at a voting machine, Hardaway took a selfie of himself with his smartphone, admittedly in violation of the state law against “the use of mobile electronic or communication devices at polling places.”
The act is a challenge of the law that he and fellow Democratic state Rep. Raumesh Akbari and Democratic state Senator Lee Harris, also of Memphis, will make formal at a Friday press conference.
“It was a ridiculous law when we passed it,” Hardaway said later. “If we’re talking about stepping on Constitutional rights, if we are talking about getting in the way of Americans expressing themselves, then it is a law that I don’t plan to honor. We’ll take it as far as we need to take it.”
The three legislators plan to file legislation in the 2017 session of the Tennessee legislature to repeal the state law.
In the interim, Hardaway said it will be up to the Shelby County District Attorney General’s office to decide if they want to pursue a case against him.
Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich said earlier that her office would not be investigating nor pursue a case against entertainer Justin Timberlake, who earlier in the early voting period posted an Instagram selfie of himself at the New Bethel Church early voting location in Germantown.
Weirich said then that her office didn’t have the resources nor the desire to pursue prosecution of Timberlake.
“Our DAs either agree with us or they consider the offense to be so trivial that it won’t be prosecuted,” Hardaway said. “Either way it shouldn’t be on the books. It’s a useless law. It’s nothing but a nuisance.”
Hardaway said election officials had enough to do without trying to enforce the law with lines reported at many early voting sites on the final day of the balloting in advance of the Nov. 8 election day.
“They didn’t know what to do with me,” Hardaway said of the reaction of the polling officials at Glenview. “They saw it. They were excited about it. They couldn’t figure out what the next step was.”