NEWS17 May 2010

News bodies seek $224,000 costs over Minnesota exit poll dispute

Legal North America

US— A group of news organisations is seeking nearly a quarter of a million dollars in legal fees from the state of Minnesota following a successful challenge to restrictions on exit polls.

The group, made up of the Associated Press and broadcasters ABC, CNN, CBS, Fox and NBC, took action against the state in 2008 over the exit poll law that prohibited them from standing within 100 feet of polling stations.

At the time they claimed that the “unconstitutional” law made it harder for them to identify and stop people who had just voted, making their exit polls less reliable.

The rule was lifted in time for the November 2008 elections, but the group are now chasing $224,000 in legal fees, reports the Star Tribune.

Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie is quoted as saying the legal fees “appear to be excessive”, highlighting similarities between the suit filed in Minnesota and one filed in South Dakota earlier the same year. Deputy Secretary of State Jim Gelbmann said that unless the fees were reduced, his office would have to seek special approval from the state to avoid laying off at least five employees.