Will Justin Timberlake’s get-out-the-vote selfie get him in legal hot water?
Justin Timberlake is getting a little more attention than he bargained for when he posted a selfie as he voted in Tennessee and encouraged people to vote early in the upcoming election.
Turns out the state has a law, new this year, that prohibits using a mobile device to take a picture in a voting booth.
“Hey! You! Yeah, YOU! I just flew from LA to Memphis to #rockthevote !!! No excuses, my good people!,” Timberlake wrote in a caption showing him notching his preferences at New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in Germantown, Tenn. “There could be early voting in your town too. If not, November 8th! Choose to have a voice! If you don't, then we can't HEAR YOU! Get out and VOTE! #excerciseyourrighttovote.”
Timberlake made it to Tennessee a day after the Sunday premiere of his new movie, “Trolls,” in Los Angeles.
“We’re thrilled Justin can’t stop the feeling when it comes to voting so much that he voted early in person and is promoting voting to his millions of fans,” said Adam Ghassemi, a spokesman for Secretary of State Tre Hargett, on Tuesday. “In Tennessee, using electronic devices inside polling locations to take pictures, videos or make calls is not allowed.
“We hope this encourages more people than ever to vote,” he added, “but Tennesseans should only use their phones inside polling locations for informational purposes to assist while voting, like our free GoVoteTN mobile app. If polling officials discover someone violating this law they will ask the voter to put their phone away.”
A spokesman for the Shelby County district attorney told the Commercial Appeal on Tuesday that the office had been notified of a possible election-law violation and that the matter was under review, but later told the newspaper that while the office was aware of the allegation, it had “not been presented anything by an investigative authority” to look into.
The law — which was cosponsored by a state senator from Germantown — made it a misdemeanor to take a cellphone photo in a voting booth. The law gives people statutory protection to use their mobile devices to assist them in voting, but also makes this kind of selfie-taking a misdemeanor punishable by a $50 fine and up to 30 days in jail.
One problem raised with the bill back in 2015 was a concern that voters not be afraid to use their phones to record fraud. Astonishingly enough, a failed amendment to the law that would have allowed some polling-place smartphone photography didn’t address the possibility of a celebrity-selfie public service announcement.
Memphis-born Timberlake didn’t stop at that selfie, by the way. He also posed for pictures with a few people outside the polling place.
"I said, 'I know you’ve done it a lot, but I’d appreciate a picture with you.' Someone was going to take it for me,” Suzanne Jones, a candidate for the Germantown school board who got a picture with Timberlake, told the Commercial Appeal.
“But he said, 'No, I can take it. I do have gorilla arms, since I do this a lot.'"
Follow Christie D’Zurilla on Twitter @theCDZ.
8:45 a.m. Oct 26: This article was updated with revised information from the district attorney’s office.
This article was originally published at 2:50 p.m. Oct. 25.
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