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Third Circuit to Press: Stay Out of Polling Places

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By Robyn Hagan Cain on November 02, 2012 4:01 PM

It looks like the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is out of options in its November 6 poll coverage lawsuit.

Thursday, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the Post-Gazette's challenge to a state law that prevents reporters, and others not involved in voting, from entering polling places.

The paper has been contesting a 75-year-old statute creating a 10-foot restricted access zone around polling places. The zone, which is not aggressively enforced, was designed to preserve voter secrecy.

Since the November 6 election would have been poll workers' first attempt at implementing Pennsylvania's new state-issued voter ID requirement, media outlets want to be able to film the new law in action.

A state judge enjoined the Pennsylvania voter ID law from taking effect in October.

The Post-Gazette sued the Allegheny County Board of Elections for poll access, and actually reached a compromise with the Board. The only problem? The parties couldn't get a judge to approve the plan.

The Board and the paper asked District Judge Nora Barry Fischer to sign a proposed consent order that would have allowed reporters to photograph or record people signing in to vote, but not actually voting, the Post-Gazette reports. That way, the media could still capture the relevant impact of the new voter ID requirement while preserving the spirit of the voter secrecy provisions.

Judge Fischer, however, concluded that the newspaper's right to gather news was not infringed by polling place access rules.

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments in the appeal last week, and affirmed Judge Fischer's decision on Thursday in a docket order.

The appellate court will issue a written opinion in the matter at a later date.

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