Poll watchers are nothing new to elections, but this year there could be more poll watchers spread out across election sites than ever before. So what is a poll watcher? And what can or can’t they do?
Poll watching does not mean anyone can just randomly show up and keep an eye on everything. If you want to be inside a polling site, you have to be certified and trained on all the rules.
When walking in to cast your vote, you will notice several people working a polling site. If there’s a poll watcher present you should be able to identify them.
“The election official will give [the poll watcher] a badge where they have to put their name on and they have to wear it the entire time they’re at the poll,” said Jacque Callanen, the Bexar County elections administrator.
Poll watchers are trained and assigned by either a political party or candidate and then certified by an election judge on Election Day. A poll watcher must be registered in Bexar County.
“If they’re there from another county, if they’ve come in from another state, then they have to stand outside the 100 foot mark like everyone else is required to do,” Callanen said.
Once a poll watcher's credentials are approved, they can roam around inside a polling site and take notes. However, they can only speak with the presiding judge and can't wear campaign clothing. The only time you may come near a poll watcher is if you need assistance in the polling booth.
“However, if an election official is chosen to be the assistant, if someone needs an assistant or an interpreter, then the poll watcher can stand and actually see how that voter votes,” Callanen explained.
Callanen says that there's usually not a lot of poll watchers on Election Day, but she admits this election cycle is anything but usual.
“I think we'll see more than we've seen in the past. Having said that maybe, 15, 20 percent of our 303 poll sites would have a poll watcher,” Callanen noted.
Callanen added that she will not know how many poll watchers show up until Election Day.
The chairman for the Bexar County Republican Party told KENS 5 that they have more than 200 people who have trained to be a poll watcher. The Bexar County Democratic Party said that they have people that will be working each polling location, but not anyone trained specifically as a poll watcher.