What are election poll watchers and what do they do?

Published: Sep. 30, 2020 at 6:00 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - President Donald Trump says he’s worried about election fraud this November and encouraged his supporters to watch the polls.

He sent out a tweet Tuesday night asking supporters to fight for President Trump and volunteer to be a Trump Election Poll Watcher.

“You have a fraudulent election. You’re sending out 80 million ballots. These people aren’t equipped to handle it. Number one. Number two, they cheat,” said Trump during the presidential debate Tuesday.

But being a poll watcher isn’t as simple as just sending supporters to the polls to go and watch. There are rules specific to every state.

“Michigan elections are different than Florida are different than Indiana. All states have different ways that they conduct their elections,” said Barb Byrum, Ingham County Clerk.

According to state election law, in Michigan there are poll workers and qualified election challengers.

Poll watchers are observers not required to be registered to vote, and cannot challenge a person’s right to vote or the actions of the precinct board.

They have to stand in the public area and not interfere with the voting process by doing things like approaching or talking to voters for any reason.

“The poll challengers have to be appointed by their parties sometimes their lawyers or they have to be appointed by the county clerk but they do come with credentials. They’ll have a little name tag but they may only challenge a ballot or a procedure if they have a good faith reason to challenge,” said Byrum.

There’s currently no evidence of election fraud in Michigan and Democrats say the tactic is a form of voter intimidation. Byrum says she won’t tolerate any voter intimidation in Ingham County.

“I am concerned that the president is encouraging his supporters to do all sorts of things that are completely unacceptable,” said Byrum. “I know that our elections in Michigan are safe and secure.”

Poll watchers can show up the day of the election. Just be sure to follow the rules and let the precinct chairperson know you’re there and why.

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