Rumor vs Reality

Rumor: Poll watchers scare people away from voting. Reality: Poll watchers ensure their candidate is treated fairly at the polls.

Published October 7, 2020

Poll watchers work for a candidate or party and spend Election Day in polling places to be sure they are run fairly. They look out for things like: Do the voting machines work? Are voters being turned away unfairly? Is everyone getting only one ballot?

If a poll watcher sees something that violates the law, they report it to election officials. If a poll watcher disrupts operations in a polling place, election officials are allowed to remove them.

The rules for poll watching vary from state to state, but generally, poll watchers must be registered in advance of the election. There are also limits to the number of poll watchers in each polling place.

In a non-official role, a candidate’s supporters can stand outside a polling place as long as they stay a legal distance from the entrance. By law, they cannot intimidate, challenge, question, or obstruct anyone trying to enter a polling place.