Some Web sites leak exit poll results early

The Associated Press
Wednesday November 08, 2000

NEW YORK — Some Web sites leaked early voting results from exit polls Tuesday afternoon despite efforts to keep them private until polls closed in the evening. 

The leaks underscore difficulties controlling the distribution of information in the Internet age. 

The sites that leaked information were not members of Voter News Service, the consortium of The Associated Press and television networks that conducted the surveys and agreed not to release results before polls closed in particular states. 

Sites such as the Drudge Report and cited unidentified sources and did not get the data directly from VNS. 

Bill Headline, the consortium’s executive director, said such leaking amounts to copyright violations. He said VNS will review its legal options after the elections. 

“We intend to take whatever action seems appropriate to make sure it doesn’t happen in the future,” Headline said. 

He also said some of the posted results were incorrect. 

VNS is the primary source of exit polling used by news organizations in the United States. 

For the past two weeks, the AP ran advisories from VNS warning that the use of information before polls close in each state “may constitute unfair competition and misappropriation under state law, and may subject persons issuing such reports to liability.” 

Michael Hirschorn, Inside’s editor in chief, said that if journalists know the results, so should the public.  

He said he received e-mail leaks from dozens of journalists. 

“The genie is out of the bottle, and it’s wishful thinking that you could put it back in,” he said.  

“Once this information is out, thanks to e-mail and the Internet, it becomes incredibly easy to distribute.” ran a summary from Drudge’s report. Lucianne Goldberg, the site’s operator, said she considered the results public once accessible on the Internet. 

Drudge did not respond to e-mails seeking comment, and directory assistance did not have a listing in the Los Angeles area, where the site is listed as based. 

Drudge, Slate and the National Review also leaked exit poll results during the primaries. 

One VNS member did inadvertently refer to exit poll results on television. WABC’s assistant news director, Kenny Poltnik, said the reporter got those numbers from a campaign, not VNS. 

He said, “It was a mistake and should not have happened.”