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German Pollsters Warned After Twitter Leak

BERLIN -- Germany's chief electoral commissioner told pollsters on Tuesday to be vigilant with their exit poll data on the September 27 federal election after state results were published on Twitter before polls closed on Sunday.

Roderich Egeler told a news conference he expected the polling institutes that supply exit poll data to German networks to takes steps to ensure the information is not leaked out on the Twitter social networking site in breach of German law.

"I'm sure the polling institutes know themselves exactly what that means," Egeler said. "I assume that they'll become more sensitized to the issue in light of the discussion of the recent events."

German officials said on Monday they were investigating the source of exit poll data which was made public on Twitter more than an hour before polls closed during state elections in Saxony, Saarland and Thuringia on Sunday.

The exit poll data, usually put together by private polling institutes for the networks, are often given to party leaders in the hours before the polls close.

Electoral commissioners are concerned the results of the federal election on Sept. 27 could also be jeopardized if exit poll results are made public before polling stations close.

Egeler tried to downplay concerns it would be a problem.

"I envisage that Twitter will be a non-issue for the federal election," Egeler said.

The private polling institutes said that they have always taken great care to ensure the exit polls are not made public before polls close -- an offense punishable with fines of up to 50,000 euros ($71,150).

"We have a sufficient awareness of the problem," said Matthias Jung, head of the Electoral Research Group which provides poll data for German TV public broadcaster ZDF.

Richard Hilmer, director of rival Infratest dimap that provides data for ARD, said his institute took care to keep the number of people with access to the data small. But he said there could be a further clampdown on who sees the data.

Similar concern arose after the re-election of conservative President Horst Koehler by the federal assembly in May, when some parliamentary deputies revealed the results of the vote on Twitter minutes before the official announcement.

Election officials in Saxony are still trying to find out whether the Twitter messages on Sunday were based on exit polls and whether to take legal action.