U.S. Supreme Court declines Post-Gazette challenge of polling place ban

Pennsylvania election officials can continue to bar members of the media, among others, from entering polling places during elections.

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear a challenge to the law by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The Post-Gazette filed its petition last summer, in advance of the implementation of Pennsylvania new voter ID law in the November election.

Reporters wanted to witness the interaction of poll workers asking voters for their ID and what would happen if those voters didn’t have identification.

The paper’s attorney, Frederick Frank, says the Supreme Court’s decision not to hear the case is disappointing.

“We continue to believe the case presented significant issues on the First Amendment [grounds] as they impact the media’s ability to cover Pennsylvania elections,” Frank said.

The law prevents anyone who is not a voter, poll-worker or registered poll watcher from entering voting sites on Election Day.

Frank says, personally, he hopes the state Legislature will change the law or Attorney General Kathleen Kane will issue guidance on making allowances for reporters.

Zack Stalberg of the bi-partisan watchdog, the Committee of 70 said his organization’s observers must also wait outside Philadelphia-area polling places. Right now, he said, what goes on inside is known only to the voter and polling place officials. “Essentially that locks the public out of the proces,” he said.

“I think it would be fair to impose practical limitations on the media,” adds Stalberg. “You wouldn’t want a voter to feel that a TV camera is right over their shoulder, but as long as there’s doubt about what goes on in a polling place and whether it’s all trustworthy or not, I think it’s better if non-partisan types are allowed into the polling place.”

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