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What are Poll Watchers?

Updated: Sep 18, 2022

Margot Englander

Staff Writer

If you watched the first presidential debate, I’m sure you heard Donald Trump’s comments about poll watchers, specifically in Philadelphia. Many Americans viewing have since been wondering: What are poll watchers? Below is a basic rundown of the “who, what, and why” of poll watchers and their significance.

The name seems pretty straightforward: people at the polls, watching. But watching out for what?

Poll watchers are there to look out for suspicious activity and logistical issues.

Who are poll watchers, and do you need any specific qualifications?

Poll watchers are mostly sent by political parties to ensure a fair shot at winning. They are chosen from a pool of applicants. In order to apply to become one, you must be a registered voter of that county.

What are the rules poll watchers must follow?

Poll watchers cannot wear any clothing that shows allegiance to a particular party or candidate. They cannot interfere with the poll workers or get into a voter’s space. They have to wear a badge that identifies them and they cannot challenge any voter’s belief.

What are poll watchers not allowed to do?

Poll watchers cannot photograph or video voters. They also cannot spread false information in an effort to change a person’s mind. They cannot block the entrance to a polling place, or confront a voter. They also may not ask a voter for documentation to vote. Their job is to stand and watch silently, and if asked a question, to direct the person to a poll worker.

What are poll watchers supposed to do if they suspect voting irregularities?

They are not allowed to do anything on their own. They report suspected irregularities to their political parties, who bring the reports before judges. The poll watchers might be asked to testify in court about what they saw.

What is the difference between a poll watcher and a poll worker?

Poll workers are paid to do jobs on Election day or in Election season, some of which may require training. There are multiple kinds of poll watchers, including researchers and representatives from political parties, but most watch to make sure there is fair play.

Poll watchers are the unsung heroes of American democracy. Their dedication ensures liberty, validity, and honesty during the most important day on the calendar.

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