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GOP Governors Call for Network Restraint on Election Night

November 1, 1996

NEW YORK (AP) _ 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.

Representatives from ABC, CBS and NBC said they would stick by their policy. 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.

``They should bring to bear on their congressmen after the election the kind of pressure they’re bringing to bear on us before the election″ to pass a poll closing bill, said Lane Venardos, vice president for hard news at CBS.

ABC News President Roone Arledge said his network plans to remind viewers frequently during the evening about the importance of votes that could affect the control of Congress.

``We’re all going to stand by our policy,″ said NBC News spokeswoman Heidi Pokorny.

The letter was signed by Govs. Fife Symington of Arizona, Pete Wilson of California, Philip Batt of Idaho, Marc Racicot of Montana, Gary Johnson of New Mexico, Edward Schafer of North Dakota, Bill Janklow of South Dakota, Jim Geringer of Wyoming and Michael Leavitt of Utah.

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