Feet Fight

Friday, May 16, 2008


The Associated Press has joined with Fox News, CNN, ABC, NBC and CBS in a lawsuit against South Dakota over a law forbidding exit polling with in 100 feet of a voting place. South Dakota Secretary of State Chris Nelson says exit polling can impinge on the voting process. The networks say the law violates their first amendment rights. We talk with both sides.

Comments [4]

Chris Gray from New Haven, CT

Back in the '80s I was a qualified election official representing the New Haven Green Party and here in CT the rule is 70 feet. I can't see a real public good that would come from relaxing the rule. Commercial speech should not enjoy the same level of protection as "core political speech" and exit polls are all about competitive commercial advantage.

I, too, side with the unmolested voter.

May. 22 2008 12:15 AM
Thomas Mancuso from Boston/WBUR member

Why do I care about the so-called rights of exit pollsters? The election is over, the results will be available soon enough and asking voters for whom they voted in my opinion. NOT, protected free speech. t is rather nothing more than protected money-making by the pollsters themselves. If exit polling keeps any voters from voting, the practice should be limited as in Dakata or stopped altogether.

May. 18 2008 03:00 PM
Jim Ryan from San Angelo, Texas

I have been a precinct election judge in a minor precinct of a minor Texas city since '94.

Texas has a very strict 100 foot "electioneering" statute. I have to inform voters nearly every election that they may not discuss candidates, wear buttons or T-shirts, if it comes to my attention, they must park cars with bumper stickers at least 100 feet from the entrance to the polling place.

I have never had an "exit poller' bother with my precinct, but if I did discover it, I would follow exactly Chris Nelson's advice: first advise the poller to move outside the 100 foot boundary; and then if he/she resisted that order, call a cop.

The AP counsel Dave Tomlin refers to "core political speech" which is protected. Sorry Dave, the core free speech right to promote a candidate openly is proscribed within that 100 feet, in my view, the primarily economic benefit (to a network, say) of exit polling is secondary to the more basic right to promote a candidate of one's choice. If the right to electioneer can be limited, so can exit polling.

I am aware the 100 foot rule would impact the ease and efficacy of exit polling. Many, of my voters park within 100 feet of the door, and an exit poller would be limited to trying to flag down vehicles leaving the parking lot.

So long as the case can be made that a single voter might be influenced or even dissuaded from "running the gauntlet" to vote at all, I come down on the side of unmolested voters.

May. 17 2008 09:42 PM

The segment could have benefited from mentioning past legal decisions that define the difference between exit polling and other types of political speech ( e.g., campaigning), which have successfully been banned within the vicinity of polling locations. While the difference seems obvious, Sec. Nelson has a point that exit polling is similarly capable of undermining the integrity of a voting location.

May. 17 2008 10:08 AM

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