News organizations sue Minnesota to block limitation on polling place access

[JURIST] A group of news organizations filed a lawsuit in federal district court Monday to challenge the constitutionality of a Minnesota statute [text] restricting access to polling places. The Associated Press and several television networks brought suit in US District Court for the District of Minnesota [official website], alleging that the law violates their rights under the First Amendment [LII backgrounder] and asking the court to enjoin its enforcement as applied to exit polling. The statute, titled "Lingering near polling place," prohibits anyone other than an election official or prospective voter from standing within 100 feet of a building that houses a polling place. An earlier version of the law [text], which was amended in April, applied within 100 feet of the entrance to a polling place, defined as "the room or area where voting is occurring." An attorney for the news organizations said the law would prevent exit polling "with any kind of accuracy and reliability," describing the restriction as the broadest of its kind in the country. AP has more. From Minneapolis, the Star Tribune has local coverage.

The Congressional Research Service performed a legal analysis [text, PDF] after the 2000 presidential election, when media had projected that Vice President Al Gore had won Florida before the polls had actually closed. The study group concluded that Congress could not constitutionally prohibit exit polling, and the analysis suggested that "Congress, could, however, ban voter solicitation within a certain distance from a polling place, and might be able to include exit polling within such a ban." A number of federal courts have struck down restrictions on exit polling [RCFP backgrounder], including a Minnesota statute that prohibited reporters from questioning voters about ballot issues.

 

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