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News groups challenge ban on exit polls

A Florida law that bars exit polling near voting places violates the press' rights under the First Amendment, a lawsuit filed by the Associated Press and five television networks alleges.

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published October 1, 2006


MIAMI - A Florida law that bars exit polling near voting places violates the press' rights under the First Amendment, a lawsuit filed by the Associated Press and five television networks alleges.

The lawsuit filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Miami contends that a 2005 amendment to state law that prohibits asking a voter a "fact" or "opinion" within 100 feet of a polling place is unconstitutional.

"We're asking the court to ensure they can talk to voters in Florida on Election Day within a reasonable distance from polling places," said Susan Buckley, the attorney representing the news organizations.

The lawsuit names Florida Secretary of State Sue Cobb and Miami-Dade County Elections Supervisor Lester Sola, as a representative of all county elections supervisors in Florida, as defendants.

Cobb spokeswoman Jenny Nash said she could not comment because she had not yet received a copy of the lawsuit. A message left after hours at Sola's office was not returned.

The AP and the five television networks - ABC, CNN, CBS, Fox News and NBC - formed a consortium to collect exit-polling data in Florida and other states.

They contend that conducting exit polls farther from voting places breaks down the statistical accuracy of their polls.