People vote during the U.S. presidential election in the gymnasium of the Victory Park Recreation Center during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Pasadena, California, U.S., November 2, 2020. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni


Election officials across the country say they have seen relatively few Republican poll watchers during early voting and that at times, Democratic poll watchers have outnumbered the GOP’s, despite the Trump family’s attempts to rally a poll-watching army. 

At the end of September, Donald Trump Jr. asked for “every able-bodied man and woman to join the army for Trump’s election security.” President Donald Trump has continually cast doubt on election security, spreading rhetoric that voter fraud is imminent. The recruitment of poll watchers stoked tensions among voting-rights groups who warned of potential disruption and voter intimidation. 

Some groups planned action in key states, including Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, aided by a veteran Republican operative who got his political start persuading a judge to throw out hundreds of mail-in ballots. Mike Roman, a former White House aide from Pennsylvania, organized 50,000 poll watchers, the campaign claims.

In Philadelphia, state officials denied a Roman’s allegation that Republican poll watchers are being excluded from voting sites. A video that appears to show a Republican poll watcher being turned away from the polling place was retweeted by Roman early Tuesday morning. A spokesperson for the Philadelphia City Commissioners said it was an isolated incident and was the result of confusion about whether poll watchers had to be assigned to particular locations or could roam around the city. Poll watchers are permitted to visit multiple voting sites and the mistake was corrected. The president has put emphasis on fraud in Pennsylvania, telling supporters at one of his last campaign rallies he was “watching” the state’s governor. He also threatened legal action. 

A poll watcher, also known as a poll observer or poll monitor, is a real position, and not the self-appointed position of “election-integrity enforcer” that some expect political operatives to assume. It is often volunteers whose job is to sit quietly in polling places, making sure voting machines are in order. In some states, poll watchers must be appointed by a party or candidate and must be officially registered with local government. 

“Just having a presence of some sort of a deterrent for probably 80% of the bad behavior that’s going to happen,” said an adviser to the National Republican Senatorial Committee.


What I Learned From Training to Be a Right-Wing Poll Watcher – Slate – 11/2/2020
This first rule of poll watching speaks to the bigger lesson I learned from sitting through hours of conservative poll watching training videos over the past several weeks: These programs are more about instilling paranoia in the Republican Party faithful than about actually teaching them to successfully suppress votes.

Poll Watchers Endure, Minus the Partisan Drama – The New York Times – 10/31/2020
Amid the clamor of President Trump’s continuing demands for his supporters to look out for fraud at polling places, it is easy to overlook the fact that in many polling places, someone already is keeping watch. And in most of those cases, they are not fighting fraud so much as the urge to nod off.

Battleground states report relatively few problems at polls – CNN – 11/3/2020
The changes to voting rules due to the pandemic sparked a litany of court cases over rules related to voting and the counting of ballots, and rulings continued right up to Election Day. On Monday, a Nevada judge tossed a GOP challenge that sought to stop the use of a signature verification software for not being stringent enough and to let poll watchers get closer to officials counting ballots.

Casting your ballot on Election Day? Expect to see poll watchers – ABC Columbia – 11/2/2020
Poll watchers are permitted to observe polling proceedings but may not talk to voters inside the polling location. Poll watchers must register with a candidate or political party, many of which provide training for poll watchers beforehand.


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