In less than a month’s time, CMOR convinced Florida election officials to retract an advisory opinion which would have prohibited political issue polling in Florida.

The Issue
Florida law has a specific provision (Section 106.17 of the Florida Statutes) that allows for polling about candidates conducted by or paid for by political committees, with no mention of polling on “issues” (ballot initiatives and constitutional amendments).

The Florida Division of Elections’ first advisory opinion (DE 07-03), issued on August 20, ruled it unlawful for a political committee, either alone or jointly with other political committees, to conduct an issue-oriented poll, survey or measurement of voter sentiment. The opinion stated that, since the law did not specifically mention issue-oriented polls, there was no intent to cover issue-oriented polls. Opinion DE 07-03 concluded that issue-oriented polls are not allowed, with respect to any candidate, political committee, committee of continuous existence, electioneering communication organization or state/county executive committee of a political party. Clearly, this would be a devastating blow to the profession.

CMOR’s Response and the Result
After analyzing the opinion and the law, CMOR responded with phone calls (starting on Sept. 7, 2007) and written correspondence (on Sept. 10, 2007). Following these communications, the Florida Division of Elections recognized CMOR’s concerns and reversed their position. The Division of Elections ultimately decided that the intent of the legislators in designing the law was not to impede upon the First Amendment right of free speech. Therefore, a new advisory opinion (DE 07-05) was issued on Sept. 18, 2007, specifically stating that polling on issues, as well as candidates conducted by or paid for by political committees is legal.

This is a great victory for the survey and opinion research profession. CMOR corresponded with and continuously contacted Florida’s Division of Elections in order to educate them about the profession and the detrimental impact of their first interpretation. CMOR will continue such efforts to “Shield the Profession” from legislative and regulatory harm at the state and federal levels.