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US District Judge Rules Florida Exit Polling Ban Unconstitutional

US District Judge Paul Huck ruled on Tuesday that a 2005 Florida law that banned exit polling from occurring within 100 feet of a polling place is unconstitutional and violates the First Amendment’s free speech and freedom of the press protections. The 2005 law placed Election Day exit polling in the same category as electioneering. The Associated Press and five other news organizations sued the state, claiming that the 100 feet barrier made it too difficult to conduct accurate polling, according to the Associated Press. The suit only seeks to void the exit polling ban, leaving the 100 feet limitations for other activities, such as passing out campaign materials.

The judge found that the state “failed to provide any meaningful evidence that exit polling has any history of leading to voter intimidation, impeding voter access to the polls, or encouraging election fraud,” reports the St. Petersburg Times. He also noted that of the 5,000 recent complaints the state has received for harassment at polling places, none were about exit polling.

Similar bans on exit polling have been overturned in Wyoming, Ohio, Washington, Montana, Minnesota, Kentucky, and Georgia, according to the New York Times and the Palm Beach Post. A hearing on the issue is scheduled in Nevada next week.

Sources:

New York Times 10/25/06; Associated Press 10/24/06; St. Peterburg Times 10/25/06; Palm Beach Post 10/26/06