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For their own good
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Ban on polling must go
By A TIMES EDITORIAL
Published September 2, 2007
Imagine you are part of a group pushing a citizens' initiative, and you want to gauge public support for your proposal. It turns out Florida law bars you from finding out. Issue-oriented polling by political committees is against the law, according to an advisory legal opinion by Florida's Division of Elections.
Yes, this is ridiculous and patently unconstitutional. Yet a spokesman for the agency says it stands by its warning. "We believe very strongly that the Florida statute does not allow issue-based polling by committees," Sterling Ivey said. He also noted that the way the law reads indicates that political parties and candidates are also barred from polling the public on issues.
This legal mess was unearthed after a group opposed to a ballot initiative to ban gay marriage asked for a legal opinion on its polling plans. The group, Florida Red and Blue, queried the Division of Elections whether it could co-sponsor issue polls with other political committees and how those expenses should then be apportioned. No doubt, everyone was surprised by the answer it received - that the polls themselves violated the law.
Obviously, this is a glitch in elections law that has to be fixed as soon as possible, maybe even in the upcoming special session. Asking likely voters about their views on issues is a staple of modern political campaigns. It is also a form of political activity protected by the federal and state Constitutions.
Rather than wait for a legal challenge and the courts to enjoin the law, the Legislature should act to bring the law in line with the First Amendment and common sense.