Webs deny request to hold early projections

The major television networks, ignoring pleas from a research group, said yesterday they plan to project a presidential election winner again this year before some states’ polls close.

The networks responded to a national advertising campaign asking them to stop the practice of projecting winners based on voter exit surveys that is released as soon as polls on the East Coast close at 8 p.m. EST.

The Committee for the Study of the American Electorate, in an advertisement Sunday in The New York Times, argued the practice discourages late voters from casting ballots in West Coast states where polls remain open to 11 p.m. EST.

But spokesman for ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN said any request asking the network to withhold exit poll data amounted to censorship.

“We’re not in the business of withholding news,” ABC News spokeswoman Teri Everett said.

“You just cannot withhold the results of the presidential race from roughly 80% of the country if a candidate accumulates sufficient electoral votes to be clearly identified the winner,” CBS News spokesman Tom Goodman added.

Goodman said, however, his network will continually remind voters in the West on election night that despite the exit survey data their polls are still open and they should cast votes.

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