Candidate Claims No Foul, Removes Post
LOWELL -- A Lowell state Senate candidate says posting a completed ballot of his race on Facebook is a minor issue, though his campaign deleted the post Wednesday after questions surfaced about its legality.
First Middlesex District Republican candidate John MacDonald on Monday, the first day of early voting, posted a photo that reads: “Early Voting Is Open.” In the comments section, MacDonald added a ballot of his race against Democratic candidate Edward Kennedy. The circle for MacDonald was filled in.
On Wednesday, The Sun reached out about the ballot on social media and questioned whether it’s against state law. MacDonald said his campaign manager, Curtis Boucher, deleted the post.
“This whole thing is ridiculous,” MacDonald said.
MacDonald, of Lowell, emphasized that it wasn’t his ballot, and he did not indicate whose ballot he posted -- thus, there was no violation of anyone’s privacy, he stressed.
He added that it was only a small piece of the ballot.
“It’s such a minor, minor, minor thing to point out,” MacDonald said. “It’s ridiculous and unnecessary, and Ed Kennedy’s crew should focus on the bigger issues in the 1st Middlesex District, not a small snapshot of a ballot.”
MacDonald was referring to his Democratic rival, City Councilor Edward Kennedy. MacDonald accused the Kennedy campaign of alerting The Sun about the photo.
Wednesday morning, MacDonald said he had not been contacted by any state agency to take the post down. But later in the morning, his campaign manager deleted it anyway.
MacDonald said the post was about early voting, and encouraging people to get out and vote.
“We want people to get involved in the process,” he said.
Kennedy said the Facebook post was against the law. MacDonald as a candidate should have known that, Kennedy added. MacDonald had previously run for City Council.
“It is pretty serious,” Kennedy said.
The Massachusetts law on posting ballot photos is under Chapter 56, Section 25. The punishment for someone displaying their voted ballot is up to six months in jail, or a $100 fine.
“While there is a law on the books which prohibits displaying your voted ballot to anyone (G.L. c. 56 ß25), a decision by the First Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals overturning a similar law in New Hampshire raises questions about the enforceability of that statute,” Debra O’Malley, spokesperson for the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s Office, said in a statement on Wednesday.
In 2016, a federal appeals court overturned the New Hampshire ban on ballot selfies, according to the New Hampshire Union Leader. The court concluded the ban restricted innocent, political speech. The New Hampshire secretary of state said the ban preserved the secrecy of the ballot.
The Massachusetts law has been on the books for some time, O’Malley said.
“Unfortunately, I can’t speculate on the Legislature’s reasoning when they passed it,” she added.
Experts say that concerns of voter buying and coercion are the chief reasons for this law.
In response to MacDonald accusing Kennedy’s campaign of tipping off The Sun about the photo, Kennedy denied the claim.
“It’s unfair for him to do that, but it’s John MacDonald,” Kennedy said. “We’ve run a positive campaign, and I feel very good about that. It’s what we’ll do for the next 14 days.”
Follow Rick Sobey on Twitter @rsobeyLSun.