Poll Watchers and Challengers

11/1/2022

Voting booth

NCSL does not run elections and cannot provide legal advice. If you are a voter looking for assistance, please contact your local election official. You can find your local election official's website and contact information by using this database from the US Vote Foundation.

Overview

Partisan poll watchers and challengers play a role in election transparency throughout the nation. In general, poll watchers are appointed by political parties and their primary purpose 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. They are prohibited from interfering in the electoral process apart from reporting issues to polling place authorities and party officials.

Terminology, qualifications, and responsibilities vary by state. For instance, a poll watcher in one state may be able to challenge a voter’s eligibility. In a different state, those might be two separate roles, and some states may prohibit either watchers or challengers. On this page these individuals are referred to as partisan observers or partisan poll watchers, although other terminology is used in some states.

In general, poll watcher's primary purpose 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. They are prohibited from interfering in the electoral process apart from reporting issues to polling place authorities and party officials.

In most states, political parties, candidates and ballot issue committees can appoint poll watchers. Organizations and civic groups can also appoint poll watchers in some states. Poll watchers are often required to be registered voters, but states differ on whether the poll watcher must be registered in the county or precinct rather than just in the state. Often states will specify that candidates may not be poll watchers, and several states exclude law enforcement officers from being poll watchers.

Many states limit the number of poll watchers at a voting location to ensure the voting process is not disrupted and may be explicit about what a poll watcher may and may not do at a polling location.

The tables below contain detailed information on requirements for partisan poll watchers by state.

Table One lists poll watcher qualifications (whether they need to be a registered voter, who is restricted from being a poll watcher, etc.), whether or not poll watchers are required to go through training provided by the state or local election offices, and what the process for authorizing or accrediting poll watchers is.

Table Two outlines what aspects of the election process poll watchers may observe, what they are permitted to do at voting locations, and limitations on the number of poll watchers and their behavior at voting locations.

Note: This resource is provided for policymaking purposes only, not as guidance for individuals wishing to serve as poll watchers or challengers. For more information on serving, please contact your local election official or local political party. 

A Few State Specifics

  • Kansas requires poll watchers to be registered voters unless the poll watcher is a member of the candidate’s family, or if the poll watcher is 14-17 years old and meets all of the other requirements for being a registered voter except age.
  • Louisiana allows each candidate to appoint one poll watcher per precinct, but also allows them to appoint one “super watcher” who can serve as a poll watcher in any precinct in which the candidate’s name is on the ballot. North Carolina has a similar system in which county party chairs can appoint a set number of at-large observers who can act as poll watchers in any precinct in the county.
  • States including Georgia, North Dakota and South Carolina statutorily require poll watchers to wear a badge indicating their name and organization. Other states may do so through administrative rules.
  • Poll watcher laws also apply in states such as Oregon and Washington that primarily conduct their elections by mail. In those states observers watch the ballots get counted and processed instead of watching voters vote at the polls.
  • Tennessee enacted in 2016 a prohibition on spouses of candidates serving as poll watchers.

Table One: Poll Watcher Requirements by State

State

Qualifications

Training

Accreditation Process

Alabama

 

Ala. Code §§17-8-7, 17-13-11; Alabama Polling Official Guide 2022

Must be a registered voter (resident and qualified elector) of the state.

Not specified.

A watcher must have a written appointment letter or document signed by a candidate or chairman of the county political party. Each poll watcher shall be sworn to faithfully observe the rule of law prescribed for the conduct of elections.

Alaska

 

Alaska Stat. §15.10.170;

6 AAC 25.010, 25.020; Guide for Poll Watchers (rev. 3/22/2021)

Must be a U.S. citizen.

Election supervisors provide the Guide for Poll Watchers. Groups sponsoring poll watchers are responsible for training them on proper conduct of poll watchers.

Election supervisors provide poll watcher IDs to state or district party committees. Unaffiliated candidates or individuals representing an issue campaign/ballot measure may also request watcher IDs. Poll watcher IDs must contain the poll watcher’s name, date and the title and name of the candidate, party or group represented.

Arizona

 

Ariz. Rev. Stat. §§16-590, 16-515, 13-3102(A)(11);

Elections Procedures Manual 2019

Appointed political party observers need not be qualified electors in the precinct or county of observation. Candidates appearing on the ballot or official write-in candidates shall not serve as political party observers.

No formal training is specified, but guidelines for observers are outlined in the Elections Procedures Manual.

The county chairperson (or designee) of each party represented on the ballot must submit the names of specific political party observers to the County Recorder or officer in charge of elections in writing (in hard copy or electronically in advance of observation, as required by the County Recorder or officer in charge of elections). Political party observers may be appointed to specific voting locations (for Election Day observation), to a central counting place or to multiple voting locations as authorized by the political party chairperson and the officer in charge of elections. Observers appointed to observe in multiple locations need only one appointment in writing designating the various locations where the observer is appointed. An appointment is not transferable to another individual.

Arkansas

 

A.C.A. §§7-5-312, 7-5-904; 2022 State of Arkansas Training Guide and Checklist for Poll Workers

Poll watchers include any: candidate, but only during the counting and tabulation of ballots and the processing of absentee ballots; authorized representative of a candidate; authorized representative of a group seeking the passage or defeat of a measure on the ballot; and

authorized representative of a political party with a candidate on the ballot. Members of the State Board of Election Commissioners or a county board of election commissioners may not serve as poll watchers.

No formal training is specified, but poll watcher rights and responsibilities shall be posted in plain view at each polling site.

A “poll watcher authorization form” must be filed with the county clerk and a file-marked copy shall be presented by the poll watcher to the election official immediately upon entering the polling site, absentee ballot processing site or counting location.

California

 

Cal Elec. Code §§15004, 15301, 15104, 15204, 15360, 15629; Election Observations Rights and Responsibilities, California Secretary of State, rev. Sept 2022

Observers may be representatives of a political party, candidate or nonpartisan observers (defined as a bona fide association of citizens or a media organization). Many aspects of the process are also open to the public. No other qualifications are specified.

No formal training is specified, but a statewide document on Election Observer Rights and Responsibilities is available.

Process may vary by county, but observers are typically required to sign in at observing locations and wear an identification badge.

Colorado

 

Colo. Rev. Stat. §§1-7-106, 1-7-108; 8 CCR 1505-1

Must be eligible electors and certified by a candidate, political party or issue committee. Candidates or family members of candidates may not serve as poll watchers.

A watcher must complete a training provided by or approved by the secretary of state before observing election activities where confidential or personally identifiable information may be within view or before observing voters dropping ballots off at a drop box. An approved training may be used for one calendar year from the date approved.

A watcher may provide a copy of his or her current registration record from the secretary of state’s website with the Certificate of Appointment to satisfy the eligibility-confirmation requirement. A watcher must present a Certificate of Appointment at each location where the watcher is designated to observe. Poll watchers must take an oath that confirms they are eligible electors, have been appointed as a watcher and that they will not make known the results of counting votes until the polls have closed.

Connecticut

 

Conn. Gen. Stat. §§ 9-235

Poll watchers (referred to as “unofficial checkers”) must be electors of the state. Candidates may not serve as poll watchers.

Not specified.

The town chairman of the party submits appointments in writing at least 48 hours before the election.

Delaware

 

Delaware Code, Title 15, §§4933, 4964, 4977

Not specified.

Not specified.

Each of the political parties, acting through their respective county committees, may appoint and accredit some suitable person as a challenger.

District of Columbia

 

D.C. Mun. Regs. §§3-706

Poll watchers who are registered qualified electors may challenge voters. A candidate may not serve as a poll watcher at any early voting center or polling place.

Not specified.

Anyone who wishes to witness the administration of election (poll watchers or election observers) must petition the Board for credentials. The petition must be filed not less than 2 weeks before the election, but the Board reserves the right to accept petitions filed less than two weeks before. The Board issues a badge for each authorized poll watcher or election observer which must be in plain view while observing.

Florida

 

Fla. Stat. §§101.131, 102.031

Poll watchers must be a qualified and registered elector of the county in which he or she serves. A poll watcher may not be a candidate or law enforcement officer.

Not specified.

Each party, each political committee and each candidate requesting to have poll watchers shall designate poll watchers in writing before noon of the second Tuesday preceding the election for Election Day poll and before noon at least 14 days before early voting begins to observe early voting. Poll watchers must be approved by the supervisor of elections on or before the Tuesday before the election or 7 days before early voting begins. Poll watchers must wear a badge identifying them by name.

Georgia

 

Ga. Code Ann. §21-2-408; Office of the Secretary of State Elections Division, Poll Watcher Training Manual, rev. May 2021

Candidates may not serve as poll watchers.

Poll watchers must complete training provided by the political party, political body or candidate designating them. Upon request, the secretary of state shall make available material to each political party, political body, or candidate that can be utilized in such training but it is the responsibility of the political party, political body or candidate designating the poll watcher to instruct poll watchers in their duties and in applicable laws and rules and regulations.

A party executive committee must designate poll watchers. Official poll watchers are given a letter signed by the party chairperson and secretary. A copy of the letter is delivered to the county or municipality in which the poll watcher is to serve. Statewide poll watchers are given a letter signed by the chairperson of the State Election Board. The superintendent furnishes a badge to each poll watcher bearing the words “Official Poll Watcher,” and the poll watcher must wear the badge at all times while serving.

Hawaii

 

HRS §§11-77; Office of Elections State of Hawaii Poll Watchers Fact Sheet, rev. February 16, 2017

All watchers shall be registered voters. Parents, spouses, siblings, children or the candidates themselves may not serve as poll watchers. Primary candidates who failed to receive a nomination from being a poll watcher in the general election are also prohibited from serving.

Not specified.

Poll watcher names must be submitted twenty days prior to the election. At the polling place, the precinct chairperson will request ID to enter the polling place, and the poll watcher will be given identification stating the watcher’s name and political party.

Idaho

 

Idaho Stat. §34-2304

Not specified.

As poll watchers act as representatives of a candidate or party, training, specific goals and instructions related to what to do, or watch for, are at the discretion of the candidate or party.

A candidate or party may designate official poll watchers at specified precincts on Election Day. A list of poll watchers must be submitted in advance of the election. Poll watchers must wear election-issued identification at all times.

Illinois

 

10 ILCS 5/17-23

Poll watchers must be registered to vote in the state and must be affiliated with the political party or organization that appoints him or her.

Not specified.

All poll watchers are required to have proper credentials from the election authority or State Board of Elections. Credentials are handed out to local party officials, candidates and members of other organizations able to observe elections.

Indiana

 

Ind. Code Ann. § 3-6-8-1; 2022 Indiana Election Day Handbook, rev. December 2021

Must be a registered voter of the county. 

Not specified.

Proper credentials, which identify other election workers on Election Day. These tags must include the individual’s name, position (watcher, challenger, or poll book holder), the name and position of the appointing authority (county chairman, state chairman, or county election board), and the party affiliation of the appointing authority, if the appointing authority is a political party.

Iowa

 

I.C.A. §§49.104, 49.105, 53.22, 53.23, 49.79, 39A; Poll Watchers Guide, Prepared by the Office of the Iowa Secretary of State, rev. September 2022

Candidates, incumbent officeholders or precinct election officials may not be poll watchers. Poll watchers acting as challengers must be registered voters in the county where the challenge occurs.

Not specified.

Poll watchers may be appointed by the political party executive or central committees, non-party political organizations, candidates who are “nominated by petition: and groups opposing or supporting public measures on the ballot.

Kansas

 

K.S.A. 25-3005a, 25-3004; K.A.R. 7-45-2; Kansas Elections Standards Chapter II -Election Administration, rev. 2019

Each of the following persons is automatically a poll agent: state and county party chair; chair of a committee formed to support or oppose a question submitted election; candidate; precinct committeeman or woman; a write-in candidate for statewide office. A person may be appointed to be a poll agent by one of the persons listed above. Appointed poll agents must be registered Kansas voters—if they are members of a candidate’s immediate family, they are exempt from this qualification. Individuals 14 to 17 years old may be appointed poll agents if they meet all other requirements of an elector).

Not specified.

Each authorized poll agent shall wear a badge containing the word “observer” issued by the county election officer. Appointments are made by a form approved by the secretary of state.

Kentucky

 

KRS §§117.315, 117.076, 117.187

Must be a registered voter in the county.

The county board of elections provides special training before each primary, regular election and any special election to certified challengers regarding their duties and the penalties for failure to perform. Any person who fails to attend a training session without being excused is prohibited from serving as an election officer or challenger for a period of five (5) years.

Political parties recommend a list of persons to be appointed as challengers in each precinct in the county. Nonpartisan and independent candidates and committees advocating or opposing an amendment or public question are also entitled to designate challengers.

Louisiana

 

La. R.S. 18:435, 18:427, 18:1313, 18:428; Poll Watchers Booklet, rev. 6/22

Any qualified voter of the state of Louisiana may serve as a watcher, though candidates in the election and law enforcement officers may not serve.

No formal training, but a statewide Poll Watcher Booklet is available.

Candidates file a list of watchers on a form provided by the secretary of state. Each candidate may also designate one “super watcher” who is allowed be admission to every precinct where the office the candidate is on the ballot. Groups opposing or supporting a proposition or question on the ballot may also designate watchers. In a presidential election, the state central committee of each political party is responsible for filing the list of watchers for its slate of candidates for presidential elector. A list of watchers is filed with the clerk of court before 4:30pm on the tenth business day before the election.

Maine

 

21-AM.R.S.A. §627

Not specified

Not specified.

Not specified.

Maryland

 

Md. Election Law Code Ann. § 10-311, 10-301.1; COMAR 33.07.07, 33.07.08, 33.17.06; Maryland State Board of Elections Instructions and Information for Challengers, Watchers, and Other Election Observers, rev. June 1, 2022

Only Maryland registered voters can be accredited challengers and watchers.

Challengers and watchers must read Maryland State Board of Elections Instructions and Information for Challengers, Watchers, and Other Election Observers and may be required to attend a brief training session. Observers are also encouraged to attend an election judges’ training class to understand the responsibilities of election judges and what to expect.

The following individuals or entities may designate challengers and watchers: the State Board of Elections for any polling place in the state; a local board of elections for any polling place in the county; candidate, including write-in candidates; recognized political party; or any other group supporting or opposing a candidate principle or proposition on the ballot that has formed a political committee. The designating authority issues a Challenger and Watcher Certificate.

Massachusetts

 

950 CMR 54.04; Secretary of the Commonwealth Elections Division, Election Advisory #20-10 Regarding Election Observers

Any person can be an observer.

Not specified.

Observers should notify local election officials in writing to request access, which should be approved if there is sufficient space to accommodate the observer.

Michigan

 

M.C.L.A. 168.733, 168.730; State of Michigan Secretary of State, The Appointment, Rights, and Duties of Election Challengers and Poll Watchers, rev. May 2022

Anyone who wishes to observe the election process (and who is not a qualified election challenger) may serve as a poll watcher. A challenger must be a registered voter in the state, not a candidate or election inspector, and must carry an identification card.

Credentialing organizations are responsible for the behavior and actions of challengers that they credential. Credentialling organizations are strongly encouraged to provide challengers with training on both the basic aspects of election administration in Michigan, and the rights and duties of challengers. Challengers and poll watchers should familiarize themselves with the instructions and directions in the secretary of state’s The Appointment, Rights, and Duties of Election Challengers and Poll Watchers publication governing their conduct, rights, and responsibilities.

The following organizations may credential challengers: a political party; an organized group of citizens interested in the passage or defeat of a ballot proposal being voted on at that election; an organized group of citizens interested in preserving the purity of elections and against the abuse of the elective franchise; or an incorporated organization. Candidates, candidate committees or organizations formed to support or oppose candidates are not eligible to appoint or credential challengers. Members of the public who are not credentialed challengers have a right to observe elections but do not have the same rights as credentialed challengers.

Minnesota

 

Minn. Stat. Ann. §204C.07, 204C.12

Minnesota does not allow poll watchers. The state allows challengers who must be residents of the state. Election judges may not be challengers.

Not specified.

In partisan elections, the political party chair appoints voters from that party to act as challengers at the polling place. In nonpartisan elections, candidates may appoint challengers. When there is a question to be voted on the ballot challengers may be appointed through a petition signed by 25 voters.

Mississippi

 

Miss. Code Ann. § 23-15-577, 23-15-571; Secretary of State, State of Mississippi, General Guidelines Pertaining to Poll Watchers, rev 2020

Not specified.

No formal training but the secretary of state puts out a document on General Guidelines Pertaining to Poll Watchers.

In all elections, each candidate may serve as his/her own poll watcher or may designate one poll watcher for each polling place in which the candidate’s name appears on the ballot. In general elections, political parties may have two poll watchers per polling place, but poll watchers from parties are not permitted in primary or special elections. Poll watchers must be credentialed, authorized in writing to act as the representative of a candidate on the ballot or of a political party which has a candidate on the ballot.

Missouri

 

Mo. Rev. Stat. §§ 15-115.105, 115.107

Must be a registered voter in the jurisdiction.

Not specified.

The chair of the county committee of each political party named on the ballot has the right to designate a challenger for each polling place, who may be present during the hours of voting, and a challenger for each location at which absentee ballots are counted, who may be present while the ballots are being prepared for counting and counted. Signed official designation forms from the chair of the county political party are due no later than 4 days before the election and the local election authority signs off on the forms.

Montana

 

Mont. Code Ann. §§12-12-121, 13-13-120, 13-13-241, 13-19-307; Montana Secretary of State, Polling Place Quick Reference Guide, rev. 3/4/2022

Poll watchers can’t be a candidate whose name is on the ballot.

Not specified.

Not specified.

Nebraska

 

Neb. Rev. Stat. §§32-961, 32-1013, 32-1525

A poll watcher must be either a registered voter of the state or an individual representing a state-based, national or international election monitoring organization. A candidate or spouse of a candidate is not eligible to be a poll watcher.

Any political party, affiliated candidate, organization of persons interested in a question on the ballot, or a nonpartisan organization interested in Nebraska's elections and the elective process may appoint one or more poll watchers. Any such person or organization intending to appoint one or more poll watchers shall provide written notification to the election commissioner or county clerk of the county in which the poll watchers will be active on Election Day no later than the close of business on the Wednesday prior to Election Day. 

Each political party must supply credentials for watchers. The district court, having jurisdiction over any such county, may appoint additional watchers for any location. Watchers must take an oath administered by the local election official. Any national or international election monitoring organization intending to appoint poll watchers must provide written notification to the secretary of state no later than the close of business on the Wednesday prior to Election Day. The notification must include a list of appointed poll watchers and a list of the counties and precincts to be observed and shall be provided prior to each election at which one or more poll watchers will be active.

Nevada

 

Nev. Rev. Stat.  §§293.245, 293.274, 293.385, 293B.330, 293B.335, 293B.353, 293B.380, 293.255; Nev. Admin. Code 293.245, 293.311,

Election processes are broadly open to the general public. For the purposes of this section, a member of the general public does not include any person who: gathers information for communication to the public; is employed or engaged by or has contracted with a newspaper, periodical, press association, or radio or television station; and is acting solely within his or her professional capacity.

Not specified.

Before observing the conduct of voting at a polling place pursuant a person must sign an acknowledgment in the form prescribed by the secretary of state stating that the person understands prohibitions for observers at polling locations. Observers must wear a name tag denoting the person’s full name.

New Hampshire

 

NH Rev. Stat. Ann. 666:4, 666:5, 654:7, 659:13; New Hampshire Secretary of State Election Procedure Manual: 2022-2023

Any registered voter in a town or ward has the right to “challenge” another voter, he or she is not recognized as an appointed “challenger.”

Not specified.

The state committee of a political party may appoint a person to act as challenger of voters at any polling place in the state at a state election and a city or town committee may appoint a person to act as such challenger at any polling place in such city or town at a town election, business meeting, or city election. The attorney general may also appoint challengers at any polling place in the state at a state election. Challengers must have a letter of appointment.

New Jersey

 

N.J.S.A. 19:7-1, 19:7-2, 19:7-3, 19:7-4, 19:7-5, 19:7-6, 19:15-8;

Challengers must be registered voters in the district in which the person is appointed to serve.

Not specified.

County committee chairs for political parties may appoint two challengers per election district. A candidate may also serve as a challenger or appoint two challengers for each district. A county board may in its discretion appoint two challengers each to represent proponents or opponents of a public question. The appointment of or application for challengers shall be filed with the county board not later than the second Tuesday preceding any election. Every challenger must wear a badge.

New Mexico

 

N.M.S.A. §§1-2-21-27, 1-2-22, 1-2-23, 1-2-24, 1-2-25; 1-2-27, 1-2-29, 1-2-31, 1-2-32; New Mexico Secretary of State Election Challengers, Watchers & Observers Information

Challengers and watchers shall be voters of a precinct located in the county in which they are appointed. Candidates, family members of candidates, and law enforcement officers may not serve.

Not specified.

There are three designations: challengers, watchers and observers. An election-related organization or any group of three candidates for elected office may appoint watchers by providing written notice to the secretary of state at least seven days prior to the election date. The county chair of each political party may appoint in writing challengers for each polling location. An international observer or person registered with the New Mexico secretary of state who is an academic engaged in research on elections and the election process is referred to as an election observer. All observers, challengers and watchers must wear identification badges. Political parties and candidates may also appoint county and state canvass observers.

New York

 

State of New York 2022 Election Law §8-500

Must be a registered voter in the county or city holding the election and can’t be a candidate in that district.

Not specified.

An organization, a party committee, or a group of two or more candidates can appoint poll watchers and provide a certificate for observation.

North Carolina

 

N.C.S.G.S. § 163-45, 163-227.6; Chapter 08 NCAC 20 .0101; North Carolina Board of Elections, Tips for Monitoring or Observing the Election at Polling Sites

Observers appointed by county parties must be registered voters of the county. At-large observers must be registered voters in the state. Candidates may not be observers.

Not specified.

The chair of each political party in the county can appoint two observers per voting place and state political parties can each designate 100 at-large observers who are North Carolina registered voters, and they can observe any voting place in the state. Individuals authorized to appoint observers submit a signed list of the observers in writing to the county board of elections, who send the list to each precinct. An unaffiliated  candidate may also appoint two observes per voting location.

North Dakota

 

NDCC § 16.1-05-09

Not specified.

Not specified.

An election observer must wear a badge with the name of the individual and the name of the organization the individual is representing.

Ohio

 

Ohio Rev. Code §§ 3506.14, 3505.21, 3505.21, 3509.06, 3505.21, 3505.331(C), 3515.04; Ohio Secretary of State Election Official Manual, rev. 2/2022

Must be qualified electors in the state of Ohio; can’t be a uniformed peace officer, state patrolman, member of an organized militia or any other person in uniform; can’t be carrying a firearm or deadly weapon.

Not specified.

Any political party or group of candidates appointing observers shall notify the board of elections of the names and addresses of its appointees and the precincts at which they shall serve from eleven days before the election until four p.m. of the day before the election. Any committee that in good faith advocates or opposes a measure may file a petition with the board of any county asking that the petitioners be recognized as the committee entitled to appoint observers to the count at the election. Observers file the certificate of appointment with the election official where they are observing and take an oath.

Oklahoma

 

26 Okl. St. Ann. §7-130; Oklahoma State Election Board Election Day Reference & Problem Solver, rev. 2022

Not specified.

Not specified.

Any candidate or recognized political party is entitled to have a poll watcher, submitted in writing to the secretary of state or County Election Board by 5 p.m. the Wednesday before the election. Watchers must an subscribe to an oath to observe all laws and rules prescribed for watchers, administered by the inspector of the precinct in which the watcher is authorized.

Oregon

 

ORS 254.415-254.426, 254.482, ORS 258.211; Vote by Mail Procedures Manual, rev. 9/2022

Not specified.

Not specified.

The process is managed at the county level, but in general observers must sign-in at the front counter and be issued an observer badge. Observers must be escorted by designated election staff to and from designated observer stations.

Pennslyvania

 

25 P.S. §§2687, 3031.10, 3011, 3146.8, 2650

Must be a registered voter in the county; can only be a poll watcher in one district.

 

 

Rhode Island

 

Gen. Laws §17-19-22, 17-22-2; Rhode Island Board of Elections Poll Worker Manual, rev. 2021

Not specified.

No specific training materials.

Political parties may appoint “checkers” to see who has voted, “runners” to deliver lists of people who have voted, and “watchers” to challenge the eligibility of voters. Watchers must be credentialed by the proper ward or town committee chairperson. The chairperson of state political committees credentials poll watchers to observe the opening, counting, canvassing, and tabulating of ballots.

South Carolina

 

S.C. Code §7-13-860; South Carolina Election Commission, Poll Managers Handbook, rev. September 2022

“Must be a qualified voter” in the county where he/she will serve and certified in writing to the managers of the precinct.

Not specified.

Candidates and political parties may designate a watcher for any voting place. Watchers must have a certification signed by the candidate or appropriate party official and must wear a badge indicating the candidate or party they represent.

South Dakota

 

SDCL §§12-15-2.1, 12-18-8.1, 12-18-9, 12-18-27, SDCL 12-18-3, 12-18-9.1, 12-26-21, 12-26-22; ARSD 05:02:12; South Dakota Poll Watcher and Observer Guidelines, rev. 2/19/2021

Poll workers and candidates may not be poll watchers or observers.

Not specified.

Not specified.

Tennessee

 

T.C.A. §2-7-104

Must be 17 years old by Election Day. The state also prohibits candidates from serving.

No specific training materials.

Each political party, any organization of citizens interested in a question on the ballot or interested in preserving the purity of elections and in guarding against abuse of the elective franchise, and any candidates in primary elections or independent candidates in general elections may appoint poll watchers. All appointments of watchers shall be in writing and signed by the persons or organizations authorized to make the appointment. All poll watchers' names shall be submitted to the county election commission no later than noon of the second working day before the election.  

Texas

 

V.T.C.A., Election Code §33.001 – 33.061; Texas Secretary of State Elections Division Poll Watcher Guide, rev. January 2022

Poll watchers must be a qualified elector from the jurisdiction or political subdivision; can’t be a candidate on the ballot, public official or related within the second degree of consanguinity to an election judge/clerk at the site. Someone who has been convicted of an election offense cannot serve as a watcher.

The secretary of state is required to develop and maintain a training program for watchers.  The training program must be available entirely via the Internet; and at any time, without a requirement for prior registration; and provide a watcher who completes the training with a certificate of completion.

Poll watchers are appointed to observe the election on behalf of a candidate, political party, or opponent or proponent of a ballot measure. The appointing authority must issue a certificate of appointment to the watcher, in writing. Poll watchers must undergo training.

Utah

 

UCA 20A-3a-801

Any individual who is registered or preregistered to vote in Utah may become a watcher at any time.

No specific training materials.

Watchers must register as a watcher with an administering election officer. A person that is a candidate whose name will appear on the ballot, a qualified write-in candidate for the election, a registered political party, or a political issues committee may certify an individual as an official watcher for the person. An administering election officer may provide a watcher a badge that identifies the watcher and require the watcher to wear the badge while acting as a watcher.

Vermont

 

17 V.S.A. § 2564; 2022 Election Procedures, Prepared by the Office of the Vermont Secretary of State, rev. July 2022

Not specified.

Not specified.

Not specified, but the secretary of state’s Election Procedures Manual suggests that those interest in watching contact the town clerk before Election Day.

Virginia

 

Va. Code Ann. §24.2-604.4

Must be a qualified voter of any jurisdiction in the Commonwealth. Candidates may not serve as poll watchers.

Not specified.

Each representative shall present to the officers of election a written statement designating him to be a representative of the party or candidate that is signed by the county or city chairman of his political party, the independent candidate, or the primary candidate, as appropriate.

Washington

 

RCW 29A.60.170, RCW 29A.64.041;

WAC 434-250-110

Not specified.

Not specified.

At least twenty-eight days prior to any special election, general election, or primary, the county auditor shall request from the chair of the county central committee of each major political party a list of individuals who are willing to serve as observers. The county auditor has discretion to also request observers from any campaign or organization.

West Virginia

 

W.VA. Code §3-1-37, 3-1-41, 3-4A-26, 3-4A-27, 3-6-9, 3-4A-28; WV State Rules 153-20-6.2

Not specified.

Not specified.

Not specified.

Wisconsin

 

W.S.A. 7.41; Wisconsin Elections Commission, Election Observers

A candidate up for election cannot be an observer.

Not specified.

Observers should check-in and follow directions from the election official in charge of the location where they are observing. An observer shall legibly list their full name, street address and municipality, and the name of the organization or candidate the observer represents, if any, on the Election Observer Log. The observer shall also sign this form acknowledging they understand the rules and will abide by them. An observer must wear a tag or badge which reads “Election Observer.”

Wyoming

 

W.S. §22-15-109

Must be registered voter in the county and belong to the party they represent.

Not specified.

Must be certified by the county chairman of a political party;

Note: States not listed may allow poll watchers, but do not provide for them in statute.

Table Two: Poll Watcher Privileges and Limitations by State

State

Privileges

Limitations

Alabama

 

Ala. Code §§17-8-7, 17-13-11; Alabama Polling Official Guide 2022

Poll watchers have the right to observe the conduct of the election, monitor opening of the polls, remain at the polling place until results of the election have been posted, observe ballots as they are counted, observe absentee ballots and affidavits as they are called out during the count, and see all oaths administered and signed, the record of assisted voters, the list of qualified voters, the poll lists, and any and all records made in connection with the election.

One per party per polling place. Election officials, including returning officials, may not serve as poll watchers. A watcher may not disturb voters, attempt to influence voters, campaign, or display or wear any campaign material or buttons while inside any polling place.

Alaska

 

Alaska Stat. §15.10.170;

6 AAC 25.010, 25.020; Guide for Poll Watchers (rev. 3/22/2021)

 

Election board shall allow poll watchers complete view of election process. Poll watchers may be close enough to hear and record the name of a voter. Poll watchers may be present during voting hours, during ballot accounting, and during the vote-counting process.

Only one watcher per group is allowed at each precinct or counting center. Poll watchers may not sit in area behind table where election workers are working or between poll workers handling precinct registers and shall remain a distance from voting machines and booths to ensure ballot privacy. Poll watchers may not interfere with election process and may not handle any election supplies or materials. Poll watchers may be removed from polling place if creating a public disturbance.

Arizona

 

Ariz. Rev. Stat. §§16-590, 16-515, 13-3102(A)(11);

Elections Procedures Manual 2019

Credentialed political party observers may observe voting equipment testing from within the room where they happen. Poll watchers are authorized to observe at Election Day polling places, at early voting locations, and at central counting locations. Political party observers may observe the following activities at a voting location: opening, voting (but may not observe in the voting booth or otherwise impede voters’ ability to maintain a secret ballot); closing; transport of ballots from the voting location to a receiving site (using a separate vehicle); and/or any other significant voting or processing activities at the voting location provided that it does not interfere with or impede the election procedures or staff. Political party representatives may observe at a central counting place and at each point where ballots are handled or transferred from one election official to another.

Unless agreed upon by the political parties, not more than one party representative for each party represented on the ballot shall be at a voting location at one time. Only one representative at any one time of each political party shall remain within the 75-foot limit while the polls are open. Poll watchers at polling locations may not observe in the voting booth or otherwise impede voters’ ability to maintain a secret ballot. Poll watchers may not interfere with or impede election procedures or staff. Observers must follow a set of guidelines detailed in the Election Procedures Manual. Observers at voting locations should leave weapons at home or in their vehicles.

Arkansas

 

A.C.A. §§7-5-312, 7-5-904; 2022 State of Arkansas Training Guide and Checklist for Poll Workers

Poll watchers may observe the election officials; stand close enough to the place where voters check in to vote so as to hear the voter’s name; compile lists of persons voting; challenge ballots upon notification to an election official before the voter signs the precinct voter registration list and upon completing a ‘Challenged Ballot Form’; call to the attention of the election sheriff any occurrence believed to be an irregularity or violation of election law; and be present at the opening, processing, and canvassing of absentee ballots for the purpose of challenging absentee votes in the manner provided by law. Poll watchers may remain at the polling site after the poll closes if ballots are counted at the poll; be present at the counting of votes by hand or by an electronic vote tabulating device at a central location; be present at the counting of absentee ballots for the purpose of witnessing the counting of ballots by election officials and determining whether ballots are fairly and accurately counted; and upon request made to an election official, inspect any or all ballots at the time the ballots are being counted.

Only one authorized poll watcher per candidate, group, or party at any one given time may be officially recognized as a poll watcher at each location within a polling site. A poll watcher cannot suggest to a voter that he or she does or does not need assistance. Poll watchers may not: be within 6 feet of any voting machine or booth used by voters to cast their ballot; speak to any voter or in any way attempt to influence a voter inside the polling site or within 100 feet of the primary exterior entrance used by voters to the building containing the polling site; or disrupt the orderly conduct of the election.

California

 

Cal Elec. Code §§15004, 15301, 15104, 15204, 15360, 15629; Election Observations Rights and Responsibilities, California Secretary of State, rev. Sept 2022

Observers have the right to observe pre-Election Day activities such as voting equipment preparation and testing and vote-by-mail ballot processing; observe the proceedings at polling places, including the opening and closing procedures; obtain information from the voter list that is posted or otherwise available at of the polling place; take notes and watch election procedures; view election-related activities at the central counting site on Election Day; view the canvass of the vote activities following the election; view vote-by-mail and provisional ballot processing; ask questions of poll workers as long as they do not interfere with the conduct of any part of the voting process; ask questions of supervisors at the central counting site as long as they do not interfere with the conduct of the election procedures; use an electronic device, including a smartphone, tablet, or other handheld device, at a polling place provided that the use of the device does not result in a violation of any other provision of the Elections Code.

Elections officials may use discretion in determining a sufficiently close distance for observers to stand from the process they want to observe; to require observers to be quiet inside the observation area and use discretion to determine how (e.g., written or verbal) and to whom observers may pose questions and challenges during the observation process. Election officials may ask an observer who does not follow observation rules to leave the premises and restrict the number of observers permitted in a room to prevent interference with the observed process. Election officials may also restrict the items observers may bring with them into the polling place or central counting site, such as cell phones, large bags, or back packs, etc.

Colorado

 

Colo. Rev. Stat. §§1-7-106, 1-7-108; 8 CCR 1505-1

Watchers may be present at each stage of the conduct of the election, including when electors are voting or when election judges are present and performing election activities. At voter service and polling centers, the designated election official must position the voting equipment, voting booths, and the ballot box so that they are in plain view of the election officials and watchers. Watchers must be permitted access that would allow them to attest to the accuracy of election-related activities. This includes personal visual access at a reasonable proximity to read documents, writings or electronic screens and reasonable proximity to hear election-related discussions between election judges and electors.

One poll watcher per party or candidate per voting location, one watcher per central count process, one watcher for every four election judges during signature verification, and one watcher at each ballot box.  Watchers must remain outside the immediate voting area while an elector is voting. A county clerk or his or her designee may remove a watcher upon finding that the watcher: committed or encouraged fraud in connection with his or her duties; violated any of the limitations outlined in Rule 8.14; violated his or her oath; or was abusive or threatening toward election officials or voters.

Connecticut

 

Conn. Gen. Stat. §§ 9-235

Poll watchers may remain within the polling place for the purpose of checking their own copy of the registry list to indicate the names of electors who have voted.

No more than four poll watchers for each line of electors in each district for each shift. If any such unofficial checker interferes with the orderly process of voting or attempts to influence any elector, he shall be evicted by the moderator.

Delaware

 

Delaware Code, Title 15, §§4933, 4964, 4977

One challenger from any political party which is represented by a candidate in that district may be present inside the polling place and shall be permitted to observe the conduct of the election and all the election records. Any candidate and any duly accredited challenger may be admitted to the voting room after the closing of the polls to observe the counting and tabulation of votes. Such persons shall be afforded the full opportunity to examine the ballot, results tapes from each voting machine, voting machine certificates and the tally sheets.

One challenger from a political party with a candidate on the ballot is permitted in the voting room. Challengers shall not create any disturbance or obstruction and shall not unreasonably prolong any challenge or inquiry.

District of Columbia

 

D.C. Mun. Regs. §§3-706

Poll watchers and election observers may be credentialed to observe at any early voting centers, polling places and/or ballot counting places. They may observe the count; unofficially ascertain the identity of persons who have voted; and report alleged discrepancies to the Precinct Captain. Poll watchers (but not election observers) may also challenge voters in accordance with the procedures specified in this chapter, if the watcher is a registered qualified elector.

Each qualified candidate and each proponent or opponent of a ballot measure shall be entitled to one poll watcher in each of the precincts where the candidate or issue appears on the ballot. The Board may limit the number of poll watchers or election observers to ensure that the conduct of the election will not be obstructed or disrupted. The Board reserves the right to rotate credentialed poll watchers and election observers in and out of early voting centers, polling places, and/or ballot counting places on an equitable basis in the event of space constraints. No poll watcher or election observer shall, at any time, do any of the following: touch any official record, ballot, voting equipment, or counting form; interfere with the progress of the voting or counting; assist a voter with the act of voting; talk to any voter while the voter is in the process of voting, or to any counter while the count is underway; provided, that a watcher or observer may request that a ballot be referred for ruling on its validity to a representative of the Board; in any way obstruct the election process; or use any video or still cameras inside the polling place while the polls are open for voting, or use any video or still camera inside the counting center, if such use is disruptive or interferes with the administration of the counting process.

Florida

 

Fla. Stat. §§101.131, 102.031

Poll watchers may be present in each polling room or early voting area anytime during the election to watch and observe the conduct of electors and officials. The poll watchers shall pose any questions regarding polling place procedures directly to the clerk for resolution. 

One per party, one per candidate, and one per ballot issue committee per polling room or early voting area.  No watcher shall be permitted to come closer to the officials’ table or the voting booths than is reasonably necessary to properly perform his or her functions. Poll watchers may not interact with voters.

Georgia

 

Ga. Code Ann. §21-2-408; Office of the Secretary of State Elections Division, Poll Watcher Training Manual, rev. May 2021

Poll watchers may observe the conduct of the election before, during and after the polls close. A poll watcher may be permitted behind the enclosed space for the purpose of observing the conduct of the election and the counting and recording of votes. In counties or municipalities using direct recording electronic (DRE) voting systems or optical scanning voting systems poll watchers may serve in locations designated by the superintendent within the tabulating center. Such designated locations shall include the check-in area, the computer room, the duplication area, and such other areas as the superintendent may deem necessary to the assurance of fair and honest procedures in the tabulating center.  

One to two poll watchers are permitted per precinct, depending on the type of election and the designating authority. Each political party with a candidate and each independent or nonpartisan candidate running in a statewide election are entitled to designate no more than 25 official state-wide poll watchers. No more than two statewide poll watchers shall be in the same polling place simultaneously. Poll watchers shall in no way interfere with the conduct of the election and are prohibited from talking to voters, checking electors lists, using photographic or other electronic monitoring or recording devices, using cellular telephones, or participating in any form of campaigning while they are behind the enclosed space.

Hawaii

 

HRS §§11-77; Office of Elections State of Hawaii Poll Watchers Fact Sheet, rev. February 16, 2017

Poll watchers observe the conduct of the election at the polling place or early walk-in location during hours of operation. Electronic voting equipment is subject to inspection, audit, and experimental testing, by qualified observers, before and after the election. At least two official observers must be present when absentee ballots are prepared for counting. Observers may request to conduct a manual audit.

Each qualified political party shall be entitled to appoint no more than one watcher who may be present at any time at a voter service center. Poll watchers may not interfere with the activities of any voter or election official. Poll watcher may not use the polling place telephone or their personal telephone within 200 feet of the polling place.

Idaho

 

Idaho Stat. §34-2304

In a partisan election, poll watchers have the right to challenge the eligibility of voters if there is a reasonable cause to believe that they are not qualified electors by raising the challenge with the chief judge of the precinct. A watcher serving at a central counting station may be present at any time the station is open for the purpose of processing or preparing to process election results and until the election officers complete their duties at the station.

Only one poll watcher per candidate, party, or ballot question can be present in the precincts’ voting area at a time. Poll watchers may not interfere with or interrupt the voting process. Electioneering is prohibited at the polls. Poll watchers may not distribute campaign literature or wear party, candidate, or issue–oriented materials: shirts, stickers, buttons, etc.

Illinois

 

10 ILCS 5/17-23

Partisan poll watchers are authorized to observe at Election Day polling places, at early voting satellite offices and at the central count of absentee ballot. Poll watchers are allowed to remain at polling locations until the canvass of votes is completed after the polls have closed. Poll watchers shall be permitted to observe all proceedings and view all reasonably requested records relating to the conduct of the election, provided the secrecy of the ballot is not impinged, and to station themselves in a position in the voting room as will enable them to observe the judges making the signature comparison between the voter application and the voter registration record card. Poll watchers may challenge for cause the voting qualifications of a person offering to vote and may call to the attention of the judges of election any incorrect procedure or apparent violations of this Code.

Parties and candidates can each appoint two poll watchers per precinct. Organizations that are concerned with the election and nonpartisan civic organizations can appoint one per precinct provided they register with the election authority 40 days before the election. There can be no more than two people from nonpartisan civic organizations at a polling place at a given time. Poll watchers shall not be permitted to station themselves in such close proximity to the judges of election so as to interfere with the orderly conduct of the election and shall not handle election materials.

Indiana

 

Ind. Code Ann. § 3-6-8-1; 2022 Indiana Election Day Handbook, rev. December 2021

Poll watchers are allowed to enter, remain, leave and reenter the polling place as early as 5:30 a.m. and remain until the counting of the vote at the precinct is completed. Poll watchers are entitled to the vote total and to accompany inspectors and judges returning election materials. Watchers may periodically receive a record of who has voted from a poll clerk, provided that voting is not delayed. A challenger is a different designation than a poll watcher but are appointed by political parties or independent candidates. Challengers may ask for the voter’s name and the voter must announce his or her full and true name to the challenger before voting.

The state chairman and county chairman of each political party or an independent candidate for a federal or a state office are entitled to appoint watchers at each precinct in which the political party or independent candidate is on the ballot. Each political party, independent candidate, and media may have only one watcher at each precinct at any time during Election Day. If both the county chairman and state chairman of a political party appoint watchers, then, up to two watchers of that party may be present in each precinct. A watcher may not disrupt election procedures or interfere with election officials or voters. Watchers may NOT handle election supplies and may NOT try to influence voters.

Iowa

 

I.C.A. §§49.104, 49.105, 53.22, 53.23, 49.79, 39A; Poll Watchers Guide, Prepared by the Office of the Iowa Secretary of State, rev. September 2022

A poll watcher may be at the polling place on Election Day or in the room where absentee ballots are counted before the polls close. Poll watchers at the polling place on Election Day may observe, but not interfere, with the

election process. Poll watchers may: look at the eligibility slips or voter rosters, write down the names of people who have or have not voted,

challenge a voter’s qualifications and report perceived problems in the precinct to the county auditor. At the absentee precinct, observers may leave the room to report the names of voters whose ballots were rejected without being opened.

There cannot be more than three poll watchers from each political party, no more than one at a time per nonparty political organizations, candidates nominated by petition, and any other nonpartisan candidate in a school or city election. People with an interest in a ballot issue who file in advance an intent to be an observer, but no more than three per polling location. There cannot be more than five poll watchers per political party and no more than one poll watcher appointed by a different entity in the room where absentee counting occurs. Poll watchers may not handle the ballots, voting equipment, or election register; inspect documents produced by voters for the purpose of establishing identity; compare the signature on record to a signature on any document or ballot or ballot envelope; disenfranchise voters by encouraging challenged voters to cast provisional ballots in precincts where they do not live; engage in arguments with PEOs, voters, or other poll watchers; interrupt, hinder, oppose, or talk to a voter while in line or while the voter is approaching the polling place; solicit votes for candidates or questions; offer advice or literature to voters; wear buttons, stickers, jewelry, or clothing of a political nature, or; use polling place supplies. At the absentee precinct, observers cannot interfere with the duties of the board, including but not limited to handling ballots and communicating or attempting to communicate information regarding the progress of the count while the board is counting ballots. Observers are prohibited from being present at a hospital, assisted living program or health care facility during the time that the special precinct election officers are delivering absentee ballots.

Kansas

 

K.S.A. 25-3005a, 25-3004; K.A.R. 7-45-2; Kansas Elections Standards Chapter II -Election Administration, rev. 2019

Authorized poll agents, may be present at the time and place of casting ballots and observe the proceedings at all original, intermediate and final canvasses of elections. They may request to have an election judge at the original canvass display a ballot to them, but the poll agent may not touch the ballot.

Each person who is authorized to appoint poll agents may appoint one per polling place. Poll agents may note engage in any of the following: electioneering; voter intimidation; disorderly election conduct; unauthorized voting; voting machine fraud; touching or handling any voter’s ballot during the voting process; distributing ballots or counting ballots; hindering or obstructing any voter from voting or from entering and leaving the polling place; and

hindering or obstructing any election board worker from performing election duties.

Kentucky

 

KRS §§117.315, 117.076, 117.187

Any challengers appointed for Election Day may also observe in-person absentee voting. Challengers are entitled to be in the voting room or at the door, and may challenge the eligibility of a voter at voting locations.

No more than two people per precinct per each political party, independent or nonpartisan candidates, or committee advocating or opposing an amendment or public question. A challenger shall not electioneer or campaign; handle official election materials; attempt to intimidate or harass any voter or precinct election officer; behave in any manner to disrupt activities at the polling place; or attempt to interfere with the proper conduct of the election.

Louisiana

 

La. R.S. 18:435, 18:427, 18:1313, 18:428; Poll Watchers Booklet, rev. 6/22

 

A watcher shall be admitted within all parts of the polling place during the Election Day and the printing of results from the voting machines. A watcher may keep notes on the conduct of the election, but he shall not take part in the printing of results from the voting machines. A watcher may challenge a person applying to vote on the basis that the person is not qualified. Candidates, their representatives, and qualified electors may be present during the preparation, verification, counting, and tabulation of absentee by mail and early voting ballots.

Each candidate, group opposing or supporting a proposition or question on the ballot, and slate of candidates for presidential elector is entitled to have one watcher at every precinct on election day. A watcher shall not electioneer, engage in political discussions, or unnecessarily delay a voter at the polling place. A watcher shall be subject to the authority of the commissioners and shall not interfere with the commissioners in the performance of their duties.

Maine

 

21-AM.R.S.A. §627

Partisan observers may be present at polling places outside of the guardrail. Local election officials must publicly post the time when absentee ballot processing will begin on Election Day and notify partisan observers that this process is to occur. Partisan observers may be present at a recount.

Municipalities must allow at least one person per party to be a poll watcher. Additional party workers and others are allowed if there is sufficient space at the polling place. 

Maryland

 

Md. Election Law Code Ann. § 10-311, 10-301.1; COMAR 33.07.07, 33.07.08, 33.17.06; Maryland State Board of Elections Instructions and Information for Challengers, Watchers, and Other Election Observers, rev. June 1, 2022

An accredited challenger and watcher has the right to:  enter the polling place at least 30 minutes before voting can begin; enter or be present at the polling place at any time during voting hours; remain in the polling place until all post-voting tasks have been completed and the election judges leave the polling place; maintain a list of registered voters who have voted, individuals who have cast provisional ballots, and individuals who have registered to vote during early voting; and enter and leave a polling place to take outside information identifying who has voted. Watchers may challenge a voter challenge a voter only if there is reasonable basis for asserting that the voter is not who he or she claims to be. Note that these provisions apply to early voting locations as well.

Watchers are prohibited from interfering with the work of the election judges in conducting the election and performing their assigned tasks. Watchers cannot use cameras and electronic devices, such as phones, smart watches, laptops, and tablets, in the polling place; cannot act as voter advocates or attempt to exercise political influence while in the polling place; or bring any political materials, newspapers, or news magazines into the polling place or wear anything with a political message.

Massachusetts

 

950 CMR 54.04; Secretary of the Commonwealth Elections Division, Election Advisory #20-10 Regarding Election Observers

Observers must be allowed into early voting locations and into polling places at least a half hour before polls open to observe the public inspection of the voting equipment zero tape. During voting hours observers may remain in the voting location but must remain behind the guardrail. On Election Day observers may remain within the polling place after polls close to watch the voting lists and ballots being removed from the ballot box. Observers located at the check-in table may challenge a voter.

Local election officials may limit the number of observers in a polling place or during any other election process. If there are space limitations, priority is given to candidates appearing on the ballot and to those who provided written notice to the election official ahead of time. Under no circumstances should an observer be sitting at either the check-in or check-out table or in a location where they may be confused for poll workers. Observers must not interfere with the election process in any way and are to have no interaction with voters. An observer is not permitted to: take pictures or video in any manner that compromises the secrecy of any ballot; take pictures of voters in an effort to intimidate them; use public power sources; use or display signage; or

leave electronic devices unattended.

Michigan

 

M.C.L.A. 168.733, 168.730; State of Michigan Secretary of State, The Appointment, Rights, and Duties of Election Challengers and Poll Watchers, rev. May 2022

Challengers may be present at a polling place or absent voter ballot processing facility and must follow the directions of election inspectors. A challenger may make a challenge to a voter’s eligibility to cast a ballot only if the challenger has a good reason to believe that the person in question is not a registered voter. A challenger may challenge a voting process, including the way that election inspectors are operating a polling place or processing absent voter ballots at an absent voter ballot processing facility. Poll watchers are allowed to be present in a polling place or an absent voter ballot processing facility and observe the process from a Public Viewing Area.

Only two challengers from any political party or other credentialing organization may be present at a precinct conducting in-person voting on Election Day. A challenger may not enter the absent voter ballot processing facility without taking this oath and signing a document acknowledging the oath. Once tallying of votes has begun on Election Day, challengers serving at an absent voter ballot processing facility, like all persons present in an absent voter ballot processing facility, are sequestered at the facility and cannot leave until the close of polls at 8 p.m. on Election Day. No electronic devices capable of sending or receiving information, including phones, laptops, tablets, or smartwatches, are permitted in an absent voter ballot processing facility while absent voter ballots are being processed until the close of polls on Election Day.

Poll watchers cannot issue challenges; stand behind the election inspectors as voters are processed; or be present in any part of the polling place except the designated Public Viewing Area.

Minnesota

 

Minn. Stat. Ann. §204C.07, 204C.12

Challengers may be present in the polling place during the hours of voting and may remain there until the votes are counted and the results declared.

One challenger per political party, candidate or question is permitted per polling place. No challenger shall handle or inspect registration cards, files, or lists. Challengers shall not prepare in any manner any list of individuals who have or have not voted. They shall not attempt to influence voting in any manner. They shall not converse with a voter except to determine, in the presence of an election judge, whether the voter is eligible to vote in the precinct. Challengers and the political parties that appointed them must not compile lists of voters to challenge on the basis of mail sent by a political party that was returned as undeliverable or if receipt by the intended recipient was not acknowledged in the case of registered mail.

Mississippi

 

Miss. Code Ann. § 23-15-577, 23-15-571; Secretary of State, State of Mississippi, General Guidelines Pertaining to Poll Watchers, rev 2020

Poll watchers are entitled to see and hear the manner in which the election is conducted. Poll watchers may bring copies of redacted pollbooks or voter rolls to the polling place; bring paper, notebooks or such other materials to keep notes; and challenge the qualifications of any person attempting to cast a ballot in the polling place or a voter who has cast an absentee ballot.

Challenges may also be made by candidates, qualified electors, managers, clerks, and poll workers.

Candidates serve as a poll watcher or designate one poll watcher per polling place and each political party may have two watchers per polling place in general elections. Watchers may not interfere in the election process, compromise a voter’s privacy or intimidate a voter. They may not communicate with any voter; physically touch or handle any ballot, absentee ballot envelope, absentee ballot application or affidavit ballot envelope; view or photograph the pollbooks while at the polling place; photograph the receipt books while at the polling place; move about the polling place speaking to voters; influence or attempt to influence or harass any voter; or campaign inside the polling place.

Missouri

 

Mo. Rev. Stat. §§ 15-115.105, 115.107

Challengers may be present at the polling place until all ballots are cast on Election Day and may also be present at each location where absentee ballots are counted.

One challenger per political party per polling place.

Montana

 

Mont. Code Ann. §§12-12-121, 13-13-120, 13-13-241, 13-19-307; Montana Secretary of State, Polling Place Quick Reference Guide, rev. 3/4/2022

Poll watchers may observe at polling locations, vote counting procedures after the closing of the poll, and all entries of the results of the elections. Poll watchers can obtain permission from the chief election judge to view the Register during a time that does not interfere with any voting with permission of the chief election judge. Poll watchers may challenge electors. Poll watchers and observers may speak to an election judge at a polling place to discuss application or interpretation of election procedures/laws, providing it does not interfere with election procedures as determined by the chief election judge.

One poll watcher per party per polling place. At least one poll watcher from each party must be permitted at locations where ballots may be deposited for a mail ballot election. Poll watchers and observers for early tabulation before the polls close may not disclose results learned prior to polls closing on Election Day under penalty of law. Poll watchers may not solicit information or promote an issue or candidate to electors in the polling place.

Nebraska

 

Neb. Rev. Stat. §§32-961, 32-1013, 32-1525

Poll watchers may may watch and observe the performance in and around the polling place and be present during all proceedings at the polling place.

Local election officials have the right to limit political observers to one if at any time space

becomes an issue. No poll watcher shall interfere with any voter in the preparation or casting of such voter's ballot or prevent any election worker from performing the worker's duties. Poll watchers shall maintain a distance of at least 8 feet from the sign-in table, the sign-in register, polling booths, ballot box, and any ballots that have not been cast. Poll watchers shall not engage in electioneering.

Nevada

 

Nev. Rev. Stat.  §§293.245, 293.274, 293.385, 293B.330, 293B.335, 293B.353, 293B.380, 293.255; Nev. Admin. Code 293.245, 293.311,

Election processes are broadly open to public observation, including the conduct of voting at the polling place and the handling of ballots after the polls close; the preparation of absentee ballots at central counting boards; the counting of absentee ballots; delivery of the sealed container of ballots to a receiving center or central counting place; counting of ballots at polling and at central counting places; and post-election audits. A person observing the conduct of voting at a polling place pursuant may remain in an area designated by the chair of the election board to observe the activities conducted at the polling place without interfering with the voting.

The county or city clerk may limit the number of observers to ensure public safety, protect voter privacy, or maintain order. Observers shall not photograph the conduct of voting at a polling place or record the conduct of voting on audiotape or any other means of sound or video reproduction. Observers may not talk to voters within the polling place; use a mobile telephone or computer within the polling place; advocate for or against a candidate, political party or ballot question; argue for or against or challenging any decisions of county or city election personnel; or interfere with the conduct of voting.

New Hampshire

 

NH Rev. Stat. Ann. 666:4, 666:5, 654:7, 659:13; New Hampshire Secretary of State Election Procedure Manual: 2022-2023

Challengers may observe ballot counting outside a guardrail, but where the challenger can see and hear the hand-counting of ballots and allow a line-of-sight to the electronic ballot counting device. Observers and members of the general public may watch the conduct of elections from outside the guardrail as well. The difference between a challenger and an observer/member of the general public is that the challenger has a right to be positioned where he or she can hear voters check in and challenge a voter’s qualifications, including those who are registering in-person on Election Day.

Members of the public observing the election must not be disruptive or interfere with voters or election officials. Electioneering is prohibited within the polling place. Unless the Moderator gives explicit permission, a member of the public (an observer) may not be within six feet of the ballot clerk’s check-in table.

New Jersey

 

N.J.S.A. 19:7-1, 19:7-2, 19:7-3, 19:7-4, 19:7-5, 19:7-6, 19:15-8;

Challengers may be present at any polling place in the election district. Challengers may challenge the right to vote of those claiming such right and may be present while votes are counted, hear and see the ballots counted, and shall have the right and power to challenge the counting or rejecting of any ballot or part of a ballot. Every two hours they are entitled to ask for the official count of how many voters have voted in each precinct.

Two challengers may be appointed per district per political party, candidate or proponent/opponent of a public question.

New Mexico

 

N.M.S.A. §§1-2-21-27, 1-2-22, 1-2-23, 1-2-24, 1-2-25; 1-2-27, 1-2-29, 1-2-31, 1-2-32; New Mexico Secretary of State Election Challengers, Watchers & Observers Information

 

Challengers may be present from the time the precinct board convenes at the polling place until the completion of the precinct board’s duties after the polls close.

Challengers may: view the signature roster or precinct voter list; view the application to vote form before the voter receives a ballot; view the signature roster or checklist of voters; prior to voting, view each voting machine before the polls are opened to ensure that the public counter is at zero, that the results tape contains no votes and that there are no voted ballots in the voting machine bins; and

make written memoranda of any action or omission on the part of any member of the precinct board. Watchers may: be present from the time the precinct board convenes at the polling place until the completion of the precinct board’s duties after the polls close;

be permitted to observe that the election is being conducted in accordance with the Election Code;

view the precinct voter list to ascertain whether a voter has voted; view any voting machine being used in the precinct in the same manner that challengers may examine the voting machines; and

make reference written memoranda of any action or omission on the part of any member of the precinct board. County and state canvass observers are permitted to be present from the time canvassing begins until it is complete.

Each political party, candidate or election-related organization may have no more than one person in the room in which the voting is being conducted at a polling location, provided that at any given time. Election challengers, watchers and observers shall not: be permitted to perform any duty of an election board member; handle the ballots, signature rosters, checklist of voters or voting machines or take any part in the counting or tallying of the ballots or the county canvass; be allowed to view a voter’s full date of birth or any portion of the voter’s social security number; or

interfere with the orderly conduct of the election, the counting or tallying of the ballots or the county canvass. Those observing the county or state canvass are strictly limited to observing and documenting the canvassing process and shall not interrupt the canvassing process or interfere with the orderly conduct of the canvass.

New York

 

State of New York 2022 Election Law §8-500

Poll watchers can observe elections at polling sites and report irregularities to election officials. Poll watchers may arrive before the unlocking and examination of voting machines to verify no votes have been cast; examine poll books; observe the closing of the poll; and observe the canvass. Poll watchers may challenge individual voters.

No organization, party committee or group of candidates can have more than three poll watchers in one location at one time, and no more than one poll watcher at a time beyond the guardrail (the portion of the poll site containing check-in tables, election equipment, etc.). Poll watchers may not: electioneer; tamper with election materials; interfere with the election process; protest a ruling; or accompany a voter into the privacy booth.

North Carolina

 

N.C.S.G.S. § 163-45, 163-227.6; Chapter 08 NCAC 20 .0101; North Carolina Board of Elections, Tips for Monitoring or Observing the Election at Polling Sites

Observers appointed by political parties are permitted within voting locations, including early voting locations (called one-stop voting in North Carolina). Observers may be close enough to hear voters checking in, but far enough not to impede the voting process or observe confidential information. Observers may take notes, including on a computer or phone (without capturing images, video, or audio); periodically approach the registration, ballot, or help tables without interfering with voters or elections officials, or viewing confidential information; report concerns to the chief judge or one-stop manager; walk outside the voting enclosure to view the curbside voting area or make phone calls;

obtain a list of voters who have voted in the precinct at designated time intervals; and view bound sets of completed authorization-to-vote or one-stop application forms without removing the binding.

No more than two county observers and one at-large observer from the same political party are permitted in the voting enclosure at any time. Observers may not interfere with elections workers when opening or closing the polls; speak to voters or voter assistants; impede or disrupt the voting process; wear or distribute campaign material; go behind the registration, ballot, or help tables; enter voting booth area; approach voting equipment without chief judge/one-stop manager; position oneself to view confidential voter information on poll books or check-in laptops; position oneself to see the contents of voted ballots; board a vehicle containing curbside voters; provide voter assistance; photograph, video, or record a voter without consent of the chief judge/one-stop manager, then the voter.

North Dakota

 

NDCC § 16.1-05-09

Election observers must be allowed uniform and nondiscriminatory access to all stages of the election process, including the certification of election technologies, early voting, absentee voting, voter appeals, vote tabulation, and recounts.

An election observer may not wear any campaign material advocating voting for or against a candidate or for or against any position on a question on the ballot. An election observer may not interfere with any voter in the preparation or casting of the voter's ballot or hinder or prevent the performance of the duties of any election official.

Ohio

 

Ohio Rev. Code §§ 3506.14, 3505.21, 3505.21, 3509.06, 3505.21, 3505.331(C), 3515.04; Ohio Secretary of State Election Official Manual, rev. 2/2022

Political party and candidate observers may observe during the casting of ballots, which includes in-person absentee voting and at precinct polling places on Election Day. Observers may be present from the opening until the closing of the polls on Election Day, as well as after the polls close. Observers may be present at any time which a board of elections processes absentee voter’s ballots before the time for counting those ballots and during the counting of ballots, which includes any time during which election officials count and tally ballots, make the official canvass of election returns, or conduct an audit of the official results of an election. They are permitted to observe post-election audits and recounts.

Observers are never permitted to handle any election materials. Observers may not interfere with election officials administering the election, enforce the law or advocate on behalf of voters. Observers may use electronic communication devices as long as they do not do so in any manner that impedes, interferes with, or disrupts an election, or in any way intimidates a voter, risks violating the secrecy of the ballot or voter privacy. Observers may not engaging in any kind of election campaigning; hinder or delay an elector in reaching or leaving the polling location; impede, interfere with or disrupt the election in some manner; intimidate, harass, or attempt to influence voters or precinct election officials; carry a firearm or other deadly weapon; or violate the secrecy of the ballot or the privacy of voters.

Oklahoma

 

26 Okl. St. Ann. §7-130; Oklahoma State Election Board Election Day Reference & Problem Solver, rev. 2022

Watchers may be present at any place where an official count is being conducted. Watchers shall be entitled to observe the voting device both before the polls are opened and after the polls are closed, but may not be present at the polling place at other times. Watchers may be commissioned to observe voting device testing and to accompany personnel assigned to repair or maintain machines during the period of the election. In such case, the watchers shall be limited to observing the repair or maintenance work being performed and making a written record of such work.

Watchers may not be present at voting locations except during the opening and closing of polls. The Watcher cannot give any information about the voting device count to anyone before the Inspector posts a copy of the Detail and Tally Reports on the polling place door.

Oregon

 

ORS 254.415-254.426, 254.482, ORS 258.211; Vote by Mail Procedures Manual, rev. 9/2022

Members of the public may observe all ballot processes except confidential election processes such as the challenged ballot process. If a county is conducting a recount regarding a candidate the affected candidate or an elector authorized in writing by an affected candidate, and an elector authorized in writing by each major or minor political party may be present to watch the recount.

County officials will determine the number of observers allowed at any given time based on space, security, and staff availability and may add additional restrictions as needed. Observers will remain silent and not interfere with the activities of election workers; may not handle any ballots or election materials; and must keep confidential and not divulge to anyone election results until after 8 pm on Election Day.

Pennsylvania

 

25 P.S. §§2687, 3031.10, 3011, 3146.8, 2650

Partisan poll watchers may be present during the preparation of voting equipment; at polling locations and may stay until the time that the counting of votes is complete; when absentee and mail-in ballot envelopes are opened, and when the ballots are counted and recorded. Poll watchers may be present at the tabulation or canvassing of unofficial and official returns, and any recount or recanvass.

Candidates can appoint two watchers per district and political parties can appoint three watchers per district.

Rhode Island

 

Gen. Laws §17-19-22, 17-22-2; Rhode Island Board of Elections Poll Worker Manual, rev. 2021

Poll watchers are permitted to sit at a table in the room where voting is conducted and have the right to challenge the right to vote of any person offering himself or herself as a voter. The opening of mail ballot envelopes, as well as the counting, canvassing and tabulation of mail ballots at the state board of elections is open to the public, but there is a railed space where counting takes place and while the general public must stay outside of the rail, poll watchers are permitted within the railed space and may scrutinize the open, count, canvass and tabulation. The state board may allow others into the railed space at is discretion.

Poll workers, party checkers, or observers in the polling place cannot wear any political campaign material.

South Carolina

 

S.C. Code §7-13-860; South Carolina Election Commission, Poll Managers Handbook, rev. September 2022

In addition to poll watchers, members of the public may also observe and are referred to as “observers.” Watchers and observers will be placed in designated areas for viewing the processes on Election Day or at an Early Voting Center. Watchers should be stationed nearby, behind, but within earshot of the check-in table. This area must be out of reach of election equipment, supplies, and documents. Observers should be stationed completely out of the way of the entire process. Observers should be limited to broadly viewing the activity within the polling place. Poll watchers and observers must remain in the designated area while in the polling place. Observers and poll watchers may: observe the election processes, including the opening and closing processes at the polling place; observe at an early voting center; obtain information from election workers about how many people have voted and who has voted; make notes while observing the election processes; ask questions of the Clerk, or designated Poll Manager, at the polls as long as they do not interfere with the conduct of any part of the voting process. After the polls close, poll watchers and observers can remain in the polling place to observe the canvassing process. The Clerk may establish a new designated area for watchers and observers to allow for the viewing of the closing process.

In a general or special election, all candidates who are certified by a political party must be jointly represented at each polling place by not more than two watchers from the party for each one thousand registered voters or fraction thereof registered at the polling place. Observers and poll watchers may not: interfere with the conduct of the election; take pictures or video inside the polling place, with the exception of the zero tape and totals tape once posted; physically handle or touch any voting materials or equipment; move or rearrange tables, chairs, or voting booths at the polling place or early voting center; sit at or hover around official worktables or view confidential voter information on any computer terminal, EPB, or document; communicate with voters inside of a polling place or an early voting center; display any political material, including slogans, or wear campaign badges, buttons, or apparel; wear any uniform resembling that of law enforcement officers or military personnel; have a firearm, knife, or other weapon within a polling place or early voting center; talk to any election worker who is not the Clerk or designated Poll Manager; tell a Clerk or Poll Manager how to conduct their duties; argue with any election workers or voters; make physical contact with election personnel or voters; verbally harass or intimidate election workers, voters, or other persons in the polling place or early voting center; assist in operations at any polling place or early voting center; or prevent other observers or poll watchers from observing materials or a process.

South Dakota

 

SDCL §§12-15-2.1, 12-18-8.1, 12-18-9, 12-18-27, SDCL 12-18-3, 12-18-9.1, 12-26-21, 12-26-22; ARSD 05:02:12; South Dakota Poll Watcher and Observer Guidelines, rev. 2/19/2021

South Dakota law allows poll watchers and observers to be present to observe the voting and counting activity at polling places, including at absentee polling places. Poll watchers must be positioned in a location where they can plainly see and hear what is done within the polling place but may not interfere in any way.

One watcher per polling place per each party, independent candidate, slate of presidential electors and each side of a ballot issue. No person may publicize an official ballot after it is marked to any person in such a way as to reveal the contents of the official ballot, or the name of any candidate for whom the person has marked a vote. Poll watchers and observers may converse with the election board and look at the pollbook only if it doesn’t interfere with the voting process. Within 100 feet of a polling place (includes absentee voting polling places), poll watchers and observers MAY NOT do any of the following: campaign or wear buttons or clothing containing campaign information; solicit votes for or against any person, political party or ballot question; maintain an “office or public-address system”; interfere with a voter’s free access to the polling place; interfere with the official actions of the election board; disrupt the administration of the polling place; use any communication or photographic device in any manner which repeatedly distracts, interrupts or intimidates any voter or election worker; use any communication, photographic or video device to take video or pictures of the pollbook; look into voting booths, read identifying numbers on photo identification cards or interfere with voters in the act of voting or with the official action of the election board; disobey a lawful command by any election worker; cause a disturbance or breach of peace; engage in disorderly conduct such as threatening behavior or making unreasonable noise; gather petition signatures; use the polling place telephone designated for the election board; take any unilateral steps to change any action, inaction or activity occurring at the polling place; advocate for or against a voter as the voter interacts with the election board.

Tennessee

 

T.C.A. §2-7-104

Poll watchers may be present during all proceedings at the polling place, including during early voting. A watcher may challenge any person who offers to vote in the election. A watcher may also inspect all ballots while being called and counted and all tally sheets and poll lists during preparation and certification.

Each candidate can have one and each party or citizens’ organization can have two. No watcher may interfere with any voter in the preparation or casting of such voter's ballot or prevent the election officials' performance of their duties. No watcher may observe the giving of assistance in voting to a voter who is entitled to assistance.  Watchers shall wear poll watcher badges with their names and their organization's name but no campaign material advocating voting for candidates or positions on questions. Poll watchers observing the duties of the absentee counting board shall not leave the room, or place of counting, after the actual counting of the ballots has begun. Poll watchers observing the duties of the absentee counting board are prohibited from possessing any electronic device, including a cellular telephone or pager, capable of transmitting election results to a location outside the room where the ballots are being tabulated.

Texas

 

V.T.C.A., Election Code §33.001 – 33.061

; Texas Secretary of State Elections Division Poll Watcher Guide, rev. January 2022

Poll watchers are allowed to observe and report on irregularities in the conduct of any election, but may not interfere in the orderly conduct of an election. Watchers may be present from the time polling locations, including early voting sites, open until election workers have concluded their duties there. A watcher serving at the meeting place of an early voting ballot board or signature verification committee may be present at any time the board or committee is processing or counting ballots and until the board or committee completes its duties. A watcher serving at a central counting station may be present at any time the station is open for the purpose of processing or preparing to process election results and until the election officers complete their duties at the station. a watcher is entitled to observe any activity conducted at the location at which the watcher is serving. And is  entitled to sit or stand near enough to see and hear the election officers conducting the observed activity.

Each appointing authority may appoint not more than two watchers for each precinct polling place, meeting place for an early voting ballot board, or central counting station involved in the election, and not more than seven watchers for each early voting place. Not more than two watchers appointed by the same authority may be on duty at the same early voting polling place at the same time. A watcher may not: converse with an election officer regarding the election, except to call attention to an irregularity or violation of law; converse with a voter;  or communicate in any manner with a voter regarding the election.

Utah

 

UCA 20A-3a-801

A watcher may observe: the setup or takedown of a polling place; a voter checking in at a polling place; the collection, receipt, and processing of a ballot, including a provisional ballot; the transport or transmission of a ballot that is in an election official's custody; the opening and inspection of a manual ballot; ballot replication; the conduct of logic and accuracy testing; ballot tabulation; the process of storing and securing a ballot; a post-election audit; a canvassing board meeting; the certification of the results of an election; a recount; or signature verification and ballot curing.

An election official may take reasonable action to limit the number of watchers at a single location, remove a watcher, designate areas for a watcher to reasonably observe election activities and ensure that a voter’s ballot secrecy is protected through the watching process. A watcher may not: record an activity if the recording would reveal a vote or otherwise violate a voter's privacy or a voter's right to cast a secret ballot; or interfere with an activity; or divulge information related to the number of votes counted, tabulated, or cast for a candidate or ballot proposition until after the election officer makes the information public.

Vermont

 

17 V.S.A. § 2564; 2022 Election Procedures, Prepared by the Office of the Vermont Secretary of State, rev. July 2022

Anyone may observe the election process from outside of the guardrail, but representatives of parties, candidates and committees supporting or opposing public questions on the ballot may also challenge a person’s right to vote. representatives shall have the right to hear or see the name of a person seeking to vote, and they shall have the right to make an immediate challenge to a person's right to vote.

Two representatives per party, candidate or committee supporting or opposing a public question for each voting district. Representatives may not interfere with the orderly conduct of the election. Presiding officers have the right to make reasonable rules to control the activities of poll watchers.

Virginia

 

Va. Code Ann. §24.2-604.4

A representative of each political party or candidate may remain in the room in which the election is being conducted at all times. Authorized representatives shall be allowed, whether in a regular polling place or central absentee voter precinct, to be close enough to the voter check-in table to be able to hear and see what is occurring without violating the secret vote. Watchers may to use a handheld wireless communications device. 

Up to three per party or independent candidate may be permitted in the room at one time. Watchers are not allowed to use a handheld wireless communications device to capture a digital image inside the polling place or central absentee voter precinct. Authorized representatives are not allowed to provide assistance to any voter.

Washington

 

RCW 29A.60.170, RCW 29A.64.041;

WAC 434-250-110

 

The counting center must be open to observation by one appointed representative from each major political party. Observers may be present for initial processing, final processing, or tabulation. Observers must also be permitted to witness activities associated with recounts.

Representatives at the counting center are limited to one from each party.

West Virginia

 

W.VA. Code §3-1-37, 3-1-41, 3-4A-26, 3-4A-27, 3-6-9, 3-4A-28; WV State Rules 153-20-6.2

There are no provisions specific to partisan poll watchers, but voting equipment testing, proceedings at the central counting center, the canvass, post-election audits and recounts are open to the public. 

Poll watchers are not permitted in the polling places.

Wisconsin

 

W.S.A. 7.41; Wisconsin Elections Commission, Election Observers

Anyone, other than a candidate up for election, has the right to observe the conduct of the election and/or an election administration event. Observers may be present at a facility served by special voting deputies, a municipal clerk’s office during in-person absentee voting, at a polling place on Election Day, at a central counting location and at a recount. A designated observation area at the polling place or other location should permit observers to hear instructions and to readily observe all public aspects of the process without disrupting the activities.

To ensure the orderly conduct of the election and/or election administration event, or if necessary due to physical limitations of the host location, an election official may limit the number of observers representing the same organization or candidate.

Wyoming

 

W.S. §22-15-109

A poll watcher is authorized to observe voter turnout and registration and may make written memoranda.

One per party unless election judge decides one additional watcher may be accommodated without disrupting polling process. Poll watchers shall not challenge voters, conduct electioneering activities or disrupt the polling process.


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