Trump Campaign Seeks to Increase Poll Watchers by Election Day

October 16, 2020 by Sara Wilkerson
During a break between morning church services, Beverly Sides, right, with the Prestonwood Cultural Impact Team shows Suzie Brewer election voter guides for various north Texas counties at Prestonwood Baptist Church Sunday, Oct. 11, 2020, in Plano, Texas. Evangelical churches and their suburban members are a key to President Trump's voter support in Texas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

With less than three weeks to go until the 2020 presidential election, the Trump campaign is ramping up its efforts to recruit poll watchers for November. Approximately 50,000 poll watchers are projected to be recruited for President Trump’s reelection. 

Awareness and concern over election monitoring has grown considerably since the first presidential debate when President Trump urged his supporters to, “watch the polls very carefully because that’s what has to happen.” 

Yet, as voters head to the polls, states across the country are preparing their own election security measures when it comes to poll watching. 

Who are Poll Watchers? 

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, the main purpose of a poll watcher is, “to ensure that their party has a fair chance of winning an election. Poll watchers closely monitor election administration and may keep track of voter turnout for their parties.” 

Generally speaking, a poll watcher is someone who is affiliated with and appointed by a particular political party, candidate or ballot issue committee. 

Poll watchers can also be academics and international observers who are studying the electoral process. A poll watcher cannot, however, be on the ballot as a candidate. 

While poll watchers operate in a monitoring capacity, the NCSL says that, “They [poll watchers] are not supposed to interfere in the electoral process apart from reporting issues to polling place authorities and party officials.” 

Who Qualifies as a Poll Watcher? 

Across the country, there are varying qualifications in who can become a poll watcher, depending on the state and county of residence.

In most states, poll watchers are required to be registered voters, yet some states differ on whether or not a poll watcher must be registered to vote in their county rather than just their state. 

For some states, there are particular rules that poll watchers may need to adhere to. 

In Georgia, North Dakota and South Carolina, for instance, poll watchers must wear a badge indicating their name and affiliated organization. 

Other states such as Oregon and Washington, who primarily have been conducting elections by mail, still adhere to poll watching laws, despite not having physical polls to watch. Rather, these states have observers watch the counting and processing of ballots at the county clerk’s office. 

Andrea Chiapella, the legislative and communications director for Oregon’s Secretary of State, told The Well News, “We were the first state to conduct elections entirely by mail and have been doing so for over 20 years” and said that while the state may not have “voting stations,” the state does have “a transparent vote by mail system.” 

Other states may have different views on poll watching altogether, such as Minnesota, where the state does not permit poll watching at all. Rather the state requires its political parties to appoint poll challengers, one per polling place, for its elections. 

Risikat Adesaogun, press secretary and deputy communications director for Minnesota’s Secretary of State, Steve Simon, spoke to The Well News about Minnesota’s voter turnout.

“Minnesota has been #1 in voter turnout for several years, with a record number of voters (as of last Friday, well over a million) choosing to vote absentee. Our 30,000 trained poll workers will also be in place at our over 3,000 polling places on Election Day, ready to serve voters who choose to vote in person on Election Day,” stated Adesaogun. 

President Trump and his campaign’s efforts 

With the goal of recruiting 50,000 poll watchers, the president’s campaign and the Republican National Committee are reaching out to potential poll watchers for the Republican party via DefendYourBallot.com, where individuals can sign up to receive more information about the campaign’s efforts to safeguard the election. 

Thea McDonald, the deputy national press secretary for the Trump campaign, told The Well News that President Trump’s campaign has been recruiting “tens of thousands of volunteer poll watchers to assist with getting out the vote and ensuring that all laws are applied equally.” 

“Since when is fairness a bad thing?” McDonald said in a statement to The Well News. “Poll watchers are critical to ensuring the fairness of any election, and President Trump’s volunteer poll watchers will be trained to ensure all rules are applied equally, all valid ballots are counted, and all Democrat rule breaking is called out. And if fouls are called, the Trump campaign will go to court to enforce the laws, as rightfully written by state legislatures, to protect every voter’s right to vote.”

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