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Governors Ask Networks For Restraint Western State Leaders Want TV To Wait For All Polls To Close

Sat., Nov. 2, 1996, midnight

Republican governors from nine Western states urged the television networks Friday to refrain from declaring a winner in the presidential race until after polls close in the West.

Network officials said they would stick to their plans for Tuesday night, giving no indication they would abide by the request to wait until 11 p.m. EST to call the race.

The governors, in a letter to network executives, went a step beyond national GOP chairman Haley Barbour. On Thursday, Barbour asked news divisions not to make a premature declaration of a winner but stopped short of asking them to hold back the news if the results became obvious before 11 p.m.

“If voters believe their votes make no difference in selecting a president, they won’t vote at all,” the governors said.

“We urge you to respect the rights of our constituents and let the voters make this critical choice without the undue influence of exit polls and predictions.”

Network representatives have said they won’t declare a winner in any state until that state’s polls have closed - or a presidential winner until enough states to give a candidate the required 270 electoral votes.

But it’s considered likely that if President Clinton’s solid lead in opinion surveys holds up on Election Day, enough states will be decided quickly to declare a national winner before the polls close in the West.

The networks argue that there’s no proof an early declaration of a winner depresses voter turnout and that the answer to the controversy is to pass a uniform poll closing time across the country.

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