We don’t do partisan politics here at Techdirt, but we sure as hell do talk about free speech rights. And, as we’ve said many times, there is probably no type of speech more deserving of protection than political speech. It’s what makes all the state laws against so-called “ballot selfies” so frustrating: they go to such great lengths battling the hypothetical evils arising from people taking and sharing photos of their completed ballots that they wind up stifling very real speech. And even as some state courts manage to understand that these laws are a clear violation of the First Amendment, states like New York have courts that don’t.
Which brings us to Eric Trump, son of The Donald, who tweeted out the following this morning.
eric trump deleted his violation of new york state law, so here it is for posterity pic.twitter.com/Y0ss1Ew5Wc
— noah kulwin (@nkulw) November 8, 2016
Should you be unable to see it, Eric Trump tweeted out an image of his completed ballot, in which he voted for his father, because duh. Almost immediately several news organizations, such as the New York Daily News and The Verge, pounced on the tweet with headlines proclaiming that Eric Trump “broke the law” with the tweet. And that is really, really stupid from news organizations that should really, really know better. Institutions that rely on the First Amendment for their very existence ought not to be cheering on laws that violate it. And, really, for those of us that hate these ballot selfie bans, there is no better scenario than having a high-profile member of the public violate them, so that we can get the laws changed.
But, of course, Eric Trump deleted the tweet almost immediately. He shouldn’t have. He should have insisted on standing by his free speech rights, rights that have been fought for by many so that political speech can remain free. Whatever you might think of this election, whatever you might think of the Trump family, advocates for free and open speech are required to stand by those rights. There is no joy in seeing the press shame Eric Trump into deleting his ballot selfie tweet. He should instead put it back up, stand by it, and have pride in his right to post it. And if that means defending that right against a constitution-violating state law, then so be it. It’d certainly be the patriotic thing to do.