A volunteer leader of the Marketing Research Association (MRA) testified this morning at a Minnesota committee hearing in defense of exit polling. Gayle Belkengren, President of the MRA Minnesota/Upper Midwest Chapter, spoke in the Minnesota State House in support of legalizing exit pollsters’ access to voting places.

The Minnesota House Committee on State and Local Government Operations Reform, Technology and Elections convened a hearing on H.F. 3108 today – companion legislation to S.F. 2388, which MRA endorsed last month.

Belkengren, testifying on behalf of MRA, commented, “Access to voters is essential to make this research work. The greater the distance between a researcher and the voting place, the more likely that voters will leave without ever having an opportunity to share their opinions.”

Current Minnesota law doesn’t allow anyone near a voting place “except an election official or an individual who is waiting to register or to vote”.  H.F. 3108 would add to that exception, “or an individual who is conducting exit polling” and define exit polling as “approaching voters in a predetermined pattern as they leave the polling place after they have voted and asking voters to fill out an anonymous, written questionnaire.”

Exit polling, in addition to helping to create compelling election night coverage, gathers important information, from people who actually voted, about their demographics, intentions, and attitudes toward candidates and issues.

Gayle Belkengren is a volunteer with the MRA State Capital Network and has been President of the MRA Minnesota/Upper Midwest Chapter since May of 2009.  She has been in the marketing research business for 35 years starting at CJ Olson and Cook Research as a VP, and was most recently a senior account executive at Questar. Gayle specializes in business development and consultative selling.

MRA will be offering any assistance possible to pass H.F. 3108 and S.F. 2388.