How will poll watchers work in Ohio, Kentucky?

Posted at 3:41 PM, Oct 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-19 16:58:23-04

Republicans and Democrats recruit, train and vet poll watchers to make sure elections are fair, but not every precinct will have them. Either way, recruiters say there’s no reason to worry.

Poll watchers take an oath and wear a badge so they can police in silence anywhere a presidential ballot is scanned. Ohio and Kentucky allow observers in polling places and near post-election counting rooms.

Most poll watchers are lawyers or people well-versed in election rules. Poll watchers protect voting rights without approaching voters; they keep their eyes peeled for people passing out sample ballots or campaigning inside polling places and use cell phones to report problems to political party leaders.

Hamilton County Republicans only recruit during presidential election cycles. This year, they will have less than 200 poll watchers. Democrats hope to train enough observers to cover every poll.

Gwen McFarlin, chair of the Hamilton County Democratic Party, said poll watchers are not meant to disrupt or intimidate voters.

"It's critical that we really make sure and ensure our voters when they're coming they'll be protected, they'll be safe,” McFarlin said.

Hamilton County GOP chairman Alex Triantafilou said he’s seen situations where officials have removed observers on both sides of the political spectrum.

"It's no secret, we watch the polls where there's a high Democratic turnout and they watch the polls where there's a high Republican turnout,” Triantafilou said.

Justin Crigler, Boone County Clerk, said each party usually has one poll watcher so things don’t get too crowded on Election Day.

In Boone County, Crigler said he has not seen any poll watchers during early voting and may not see any on Election Day, unless Republicans and Democrats sense a tight race.

So far, neither Hamilton nor Boone County officials have heard complaints of intimidation or disruption at the polls.