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Kyle Ericson/AP
St. Louis Blues rookie T.J. Oshie.

Hockey Fan in Trouble for Posting Ballot Online

April 17, 2009 04:00 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
A Missouri elections official is looking to press charges against a hockey fan who cast a write-in vote for Blues center T.J. Oshie, and posted a picture of the ballot online.

Oshie Fan Could Face Charges for Vote

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An anonymous fan of St. Louis Blues rookie T.J. Oshie could face a one-year prison sentence and a $2,500 fine for violating state election law after casting a write-in vote for Oshie in last week’s mayoral election in O’Fallon, Mo. The fan photographed his ballot and sent it to the Web site “Vote 4 Oshie,” which was running a satirical campaign for the 22-year-old forward to become mayor of St. Louis.

St. Charles county elections director Rich A. Chrismer was notified that the ballot was posted online and declared that he was considering charges against the fan for publicly displaying the ballot. “They may have thought the photo was cute, but it was very serious,” he said.

Missouri and many other states forbid voters from photographing and videotaping their ballots, a law intended to prevent the buying and selling of votes. The Missouri law, established in 1977, says a voter cannot allow “his ballot to be seen by any person with the intent of letting it be known how he is about to vote or has voted.”

Though a spokesman the Missouri secretary of state told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the law is rarely enforced, Chrismer is taking the matter seriously.” You can’t violate something as sacred as the ballot,” he said. “People won’t trust going to a polling place if they think somebody is walking around with a camera.”

The Post-Dispatch reports that the “chances of ever finding the Oshie voter are slim,” so it is unlikely that charges will ever be filed. Oshie, who was not involved the campaign, said that he was uninterested in politics.

“I don’t know how political I am,” he said, “so I don’t know how good I would be on making too many decisions.”

Background: Recording votes

Many states, “in order to protect voters from interference and intimidation,” have laws that restrict voters’ ability to document their voting with photos or video, according to the Citizen Media Law Project, which provides guidelines on how to document your vote.

Six states prohibit all recording inside a polling place, while most—including Missouri—prohibit the public display of ballots. St. Louis County elections director Joseph Goeke explained to the Post-Dispatch that the laws exist to inhibit the buying and selling of votes.

“If I’m buying votes, which is clearly illegal, I’m not going to pay unless you showed me evidence that you actually voted that way,” he said. “The argument would be you take away the ability to facilitate the buying and selling of votes.”

Despite the law, the practice of recording votes has become widespread and has been implicitly permitted at many polling stations. In the 2008 national election, PBS and YouTube created the “Video Your Vote” project, which encouraged voters to upload videos of themselves voting and upload it to YouTube. There are 2,241 clips posted on the page, some of which show the voter casting a ballot.

Key Player: T.J. Oshie

T.J. Oshie was drafted by the Blues in the first round of the 2005 NHL Draft and joined the team this year after three years starring at the University of North Dakota. He has become a fan-favorite in his rookie season for his hard hits and highlight-reel goals.

“Oshie has become an overnight sensation in St. Louis, a kid stepping up with extraordinary effort at an extraordinary time,” commented TSN’s Bob McKenzie.

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Reference: “Vote 4 Oshie”

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