Polling Places Would Allow Smartphones And Other Handheld Devices Under New Legislation

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An Assembly Bill currently up for voting in the Senate would not prohibit anyone from using a handheld device such as a smartphone, at places where voting is held.

Assembly Bill 1707, which was introduced by Assemblyman Marc Berman (D- Palo Alto), specifically says “This bill would provide that a voter or any other person may not be prohibited from using an electronic device, including a smartphone, tablet, or other handheld device, at a polling place provided that the use of the device does not result in a violation of other provisions of law.”

While the bill allows a broad number of devices into a polling place, the bill keeps current restrictions. The bill specifically mentions the voting law prohibiting photographing or recording others going in to vote as a form of intimidation from voting. 

Assemblyman Berman’s website explains his reasoning behind the bill. The section about AB 1707 states, “Recognizing the additional uses of technology in elections, Assembly Bill 1707 would provide that a person may not be prohibited from using an electronic device, including a smartphone, tablet, or other handheld device, at a polling place provided that the use of the device does not violate other provisions of existing law.”

Uses of technology can include looking up information about candidates and issues before voting to make an informed decision and informing others to vote

The Globe reached out to those supervising polling places in California. John, who helps run a polling center at a school in Modesto, said “As long as they don’t break any laws. Some people may not like them, but if it helps people, especially millennials, know more on what they’re voting for, I don’t see why it would be a bad thing.”

Carmen, who has volunteered for every election in Orange County since the 1984 election, also agreed. “We can’t have them calling and talking and taking pictures of the ballot,” stated Carmen. “But it’s a changing world. I personally don’t like the things [cell phones], but we can allow them if it becomes law.”

Carmen also said this wasn’t a recent problem. “In the 1980’s we actually had an issue with people taking Polaroids, you know, instant photos, of them voting in the booth. Same issue, just different technology.”

The bill currently has wide support, with the Assembly vote in May passing it 66 to 2. There has been little vocal or organized opposition to AB 1707. Initial concerns about social media posting and taking pictures were quelled due to the bill not getting rid of any previous laws on limits of handheld devices.

If passed, California’s new law would differ greatly from other states, such as Iowa, where it’s a misdemeanor to use a cell phone in a voting booth, and South Dakota, which bans smartphone usage to 100 feet away from a polling place

Evan Symon

Evan Symon

Evan V. Symon is the Senior Editor for the California Globe. Prior to the Globe, he reported for the Pasadena Independent, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and was head of the Personal Experiences section at Cracked.

Evan Symon

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