Thanks to the likes of Coldwarrior, Loren Heal, et al. we are reminded that we should all be elected Precinct Committeemen and familiarize and utilize GOTV efforts for our chosen conservative and Republican candidates. Both jobs or roles are vitally important and are sorely underappreciated at the national, state and local levels of the GOP.
However, it occurred to me that we have been forgetting about one of the most important jobs we can do, especially at election time - poll watching.
Poll watching is not the most glamorous jobs and it's certainly not the most entertaining of jobs considering the amount of downtime over the course of Election Day (bring a book in case there is lengthy time gaps between voters arriving at the polling place). Despite the lack luster appeal of the job, poll watching is one of the most important jobs we can do for a multitude of reasons.
First, poll watching allows you to double check the job of the election judges. With voter fraud rampant in some parts of this country and in particular parts of some of our states (I'm looking at you Chicago), poll watching can help ensure that voter fraud is kept to a minimum.
Poll watchers cannot interfere with the election judge duties, but merely sit near the election judges with their voter lists in hand checking off who has voted and who has not voted while making sure the election judges are doing their jobs correctly and following the law.
Poll watchers are the last line of offense in GOTV efforts because around 4pm Election Day, you should step outside the polling place and start calling your "hard Rs" that haven't voted yet to remind them to vote before the polls close. If time allows, you should also be calling the "soft R"s. Poll watching works best in teams, but can be done solo. With a team in place, one person can keep track of who is voting inside the polling place while the other is calling those that haven't voted.
Poll watchers can object to unqualified voters voting in their precinct. Election judges make the final call on whether somebody is allowed to vote but if you feel your objection was wrongly overturned, you can (and should) call your County Clerk's office immediately and your state's Board of Elections if the County Clerk does not give a satisfactory answer or if not action is taken by the County Clerk's office.
Poll watchers help deter electioneering at the polling place. They should be watching for campaign signs too close to the polling place or people standing outside the polling place soliciting votes. In addition, a poll watcher watches for electioneering inside the polling place by objecting to voters wearing campaign t-shirts or campaign buttons while trying to vote or trying to solicite votes inside the polling place. Those wearing campaign material should either turn their shirts inside out before voting or remove any campaign buttons before they vote.
Poll watchers should be at the polling place before the polls open because part of the poll watcher duties is to make sure the ballot box is working properly and the counter starts at zero with an empty ballot box. In addition, the poll watcher should stay after the polls close to ensure no extra ballots are added in last minute and see that the results of your precinct are posted at the entrance of your polling place. These results and overall voter turnout should then be reported back to your county chairman and/or your campaign HQ.
So how do you become a poll watcher?
In my state, each political party is allowed 2 poll watching credentials per precinct. In addition, each campaign is allowed 1 credential per precinct. To become a poll watcher, you need only to contact your GOP County Chairman who can get the credentials via your County Clerk's office. If you are with a campaign, you can get your credentials through the campaign via the County Clerk's office. You need only to sign your credentials and return them to the County Clerk's office. Also, you don't have to live in the precinct you are poll watching. If somebody has already taken up the alloted credentials for your home precinct, then you can poll watch a different precinct as long as you have credentials for that precinct. You can also get credentials for multiple precicnts but it's very limited as to how many you can have at one time - ie. you can't have credentials for all precincts in your county.
So how do you know what to look for if you've never been a poll watcher? Simple. Each time before an election, your County Clerk will hold election judge training. You should be at that training as well so you know each job an election judge has to do, basic voting laws and definitions of electioneer which can vary greatly depending on where your polling place is located. If you didn't or can't attend the election judge training, then election judge duties and applicable voting regulations about electioneering are available at your state's Board of Elections website.
Poll watchers are not always welcomed in the polling places but you are protected by law to be there. My precinct doesn't care if I'm there or not, but when my girlfriend was a poll watcher at a different precinct they treated her like she was an intrusion and made her as unwelcome as possible. It's not always like that though. I poll watched a precinct one time where the election judges brought in food for a potluck. I ate like a king that day, which reminds me to also get credentials for that precinct this year... Word of advice whether you are a Precinct Committeeman or a poll watcher for a particular precinct - bring donuts for the election judges, they'll love you.
It's not too late to become a poll watcher if your state's primary is coming up soon. I am getting my credentials Friday from my GOP County Chairman for our primary on Tuesday. If you missed your chance to poll watch because your state has already voted, have no fear because the general election will be here before you know it and we need as much GOTV and as many eyes on the ballots as we can get this November.
Get your credentials to be a poll watcher. Poll watching is a sure-fire way to help thwart voter fraud and report voter fraud that is allowed to happen by election judges. Poll watching helps GOTV efforts because you can accurately track who has voted and who has not voted. Finally, as a poll watcher, you are helping ensure that each election is a free and fair election which is the cornerstone of any democracy.