Newspaper, county to settle voting dispute

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The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Allegheny County on Thursday submitted to a federal judge a proposed settlement to the newspaper's lawsuit demanding access by journalists to polling places during the voter sign-in process.

U.S. District Judge Nora Barry Fischer, who is hearing the case, scheduled a conference today to discuss the proposal.

The proposed settlement would allow media members to enter polling places "to observe members of the electorate as the voter signs in to vote at the polling place" and as elections officials determine their eligibility. Media would be barred from interfering with any part of the voting process, or from recording the actual casting of ballots.

The Post-Gazette sued both the county and the state, saying a statute barring anyone other than voters and elections officials from coming within 10 feet of polling places was being enforced in ways that are unconstitutional. The newspaper would withdraw its claim against the state if the pact with the county is approved, according to the proposal.

The Post-Gazette's attorney has argued that media access to polls is especially important on Nov. 6 because it is the first election in which voters will have to show photo identification.

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