Appeals court: Post-Gazette cannot report at polls

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Media organizations in Pennsylvania don't have the right to report from, or take photos and video within, polling places, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.

The 53-page opinion by three judges comes in response to a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette lawsuit against the Secretary of the Commonwealth and the Allegheny County Board of Elections.

The newspaper sought to report on the voter sign-in process, particularly in light of the implementation of new voter identification rules. Pennsylvania law does not allow anyone within 10 feet of polling places except for elections officials, registered poll watchers and voters registered to that site.

The judges found that the constitution contains "protections for some news-gathering activity," but also found that no precedent for any argument that "the press is entitled to any greater protection under this right than is the general public."

They found that while voting in the U.S. was a public act in colonial times, the country later took up the secret ballot. "While the act of voting -- and the process by which voting was carried out -- began its life as a public affair, our Nation's history demonstrates a decided and long-standing trend away from openness, toward a closed electoral process," the judges wrote.

They also wrote that voters might not want reporters around when they are showing their IDs.

Frederick Frank, the attorney representing the Post-Gazette in the matter, said the opinion "is not consistent with the precedent on the right of the media of access to government events, and it is contrary to the decision of another circuit on exactly the same issue. For these reasons, we are continuing to pursue our request that the U.S. Supreme Court grant certiori in the matter" and rule on the case.

neigh_city - legalnews

Rich Lord: rlord@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1542 or Twitter @richelord.


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