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Exit polls leaked for German state elections

German election authorities and politicians condemned what appeared to have been a leak of exit poll results for three state elections on the social networking site Twitter, more than an hour before polling stations closed — an act that's illegal here.
/ Source: The Associated Press

German election authorities and politicians condemned what appeared to have been a leak of exit poll results for three state elections on the social networking site Twitter, more than an hour before polling stations closed — an act that's illegal here.

According to media reports Monday, the exit poll data were published Sunday afternoon from the Twitter account of a conservative politician in Saxony, who has denied publishing them.

Wolfgang Bosbach of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats called the leak "damaging to democracy," according to an interview with Koelner Stadt-Anzeiger published Monday.

"There's a threat that the election gets falsified," Bosbach was quoted as saying.

Releasing exit poll figures before 6 p.m. on election days is not allowed in Germany in order to avoid influencing constituents who have not yet cast their vote, and can be punished with a fine of up to ⁈ ($71,820).

But modern technology, such as Twitter, poses a real threat to such rules and experts said Monday it would be difficult to prevent a repetition in the national elections next month.

"One can't prevent this," Christoph Bieber, an expert for political sciences and new media in Giessen told The Associated Press.

Twitter proved a powerful tool for President Barack Obama's election campaign and mobilizing post-election demonstrations from Iran to Moldova, where activists used Twitter to rally support after cell phone networks went down.

In Germany, however, the social networking site has so far made rather negative headlines. In May, the results for the re-election of President Horst Koehler were leaked by lawmakers before the official result as well, also on Twitter.

"We've never had a case like this before," the state election commissioner of Saarland, Karin Schmitz-Messner, said Monday.

Earlier this month, Roderich Egeler, the federal election commissioner, had warned that "it would be a worst case scenario if exit polls would become known before the polling stations closed" in the Sept. 27 national ballot.