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Media groups sue over Minnesota polling statute

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  1. Newsgathering
Six national news outlets filed a lawsuit Monday against Minnesota state officials over a statute that would prevent anyone who is not…

Six national news outlets filed a lawsuit Monday against Minnesota state officials over a statute that would prevent anyone who is not voting from getting close to polling stations.

In their complaint, ABC, The Associated Press, CNN, CBS, Fox News and NBC argued that the statute, passed by the Minnesota Legislature in April, inhibits their First Amendment rights by preventing anyone not voting or registering to vote from being “within 100 feet of the entrance to the polling place.”

Sections of the statute point directly at the media, saying journalists cannot “approach within six feet of a voter” or “interfere with the voting process.”

Through their attorneys in the suit, the media argued that “the current version of the law does not distinguish between activity that actually disrupts the voting process versus non-disruptive activity.”

The news groups also emphasized the importance of exit-polling – the process of surveying voters as they exit the polling stations. “Exit polls provide accurate data about voter behavior because of the near certainty that the persons interviewed have actually voted,” their complaint said.

But that accuracy depends on access; as explained by Susan Buckley, an attorney representing the media groups, “the farther you get away from the polling place, the harder it is to contact voters.”

The battle over access to election polls has been going on for decades, with numerous lawsuits filed in different states; Buckley said the suits have generally been successful.

Representatives for Minnesota’s secretary of state and attorney general, both of whom are named in the suit, did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.