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VNS cites problems with exit polls

Service finds exits polls unreliable

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ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Voter News Service, a vote-counting group used by major news organizations, cited dissatisfaction with its exit poll analysis Tuesday and said it would not release any "national surveys of voter attitudes" on election night.

Because of this, CNN decided it will not rely solely on exit poll projections to project winners in any state with a competitive election. Other news organizations indicated the development at VNS could slow projections during the night.

CNN, the other TV news networks and The Associated Press will rely more heavily on returns from state election officials and their own analyses of VNS sample precincts.

In addition, CNN has its own sample precinct system in 10 of the states with the closest races and will use those as a backup to VNS in making projections in those states.

VNS issued a statement saying it was "not satisfied with the accuracy of today's exit poll analysis and will not be in a position on election night to publish the results of state and national surveys of voter attitudes."

That means election night reporting will lack the usual exit poll demographic estimates to help explain how and why people voted the way they did.

A top executive at the USA Today called the VNS situation a "major disappointment," saying the development could affect some stories and graphics the newspaper had planned.

"Americans are not going to have the kind of insight into this election as they have had in the past," said Jim Norman, USA Today's polling editor.

In a statement, NBC News said the development means "that the projections will come much more slowly and we will be more cautious."

But CBS News played down the development. "We always knew this was a possibility and so we planned accordingly," a statement said.

VNS said the data it was collecting from exit polls was "not being properly analyzed by the organization's new computer system" developed after the 2000 election debacle when various news organizations projected Democrat Al Gore the winner, then retreated from that statement.

The question of who won the presidential vote in Florida was not settled until five weeks after Election Day, when the Supreme Court closed the door to Gore's attempt to force a recount in certain Florida counties, and Republican George Bush declared victory.

"This plan included a complete overhaul of both hardware and software and the manner in which all data are analyzed," VNS said.

VNS also provides its members with an unofficial tabulated vote.

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