NEWS27 October 2009

Judge lifts exit poll restrictions but New Jersey appeals

Legal North America

US— News organisations were granted a reprieve on Friday from a court ruling barring them from surveying voters within 100 feet of polling stations in New Jersey – but the state is appealing the decision.

US District Court Judge Peter Sheridan overturned an earlier decision of the New Jersey supreme court to prevent exit polling from being conducted too close to voting stations.

In siding with the National Election Pool – a group of media firms including The Associated Press, ABC, CNN and Fox who jointly fund exit polls – Judge Sheridan said: “In every case, the impetus by the state is to protect the integrity of the polling place and to prevent election fraud and intimidation to voters. There is no evidence on the record that exit pollsters have ever been engaged in such activity.”

The National Election Pool had argued against the Supreme Court ban on the grounds that it violated freedom of expression and that the accuracy of their survey results would be damaged if kept so far back from polling places.

Judge Sheridan’s ruling should allow exit polling to precede as normal for New Jersey’s state gubernatorial election on 3 November, however Attorney General Anne Milgram’s office has filed a notice of appeal with the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.