What can and can’t the poll watcher do?

Added guidance when poll workers work on polling sites

HOUSTON (KIAH) — Early voting for the midterm elections is now in full swing. And this year, you may see more local election officials. But do you know the rules that polling station officials must follow?

Texas Secretary of State John P. Scott’s office has released new information about a new law and changes to requirements for poll watchers this election season. These new requirements were approved under state House Bill 3107 and Senate Bill 1.

In addition to the training program and oath that poll observers must take, there are certain rules they must also follow. Here’s a look at what the Texas Secretary of State’s office lists as the rights and rules for poll watchers:

Rights of survey observers

  • The Code provides that the election observer has the right to sit or stand close enough to see and hear the election officials performing the observed activity
  • An election observer may not be denied free movement when election activities are taking place within the location where the observer serves. An observer entitled to “observe” election activity under the Code is entitled to sit or stand close enough to see and hear the activity.
  • While an observer may be present if an election worker is assisting a voter, the observer may not be present at the polling station when the voter prepares the voter’s ballot or is assisted by a person of the voter’s choice, including a person who also serves as an interpreter at the polling station .
  • The observer does not have the right to free movement in other areas of the electoral service that are not used for the designated activities. Because election offices often hold confidential voter information that may not be subject to inspection by observers, this information must be carefully guarded and election officials must clearly define what rooms and locations are needed for certain election activities.
  • It is an offense for a person serving in an official capacity to take any action to obstruct the observer’s view of the vote or to remove him from the activity or procedure to be observed in a manner that would render the observation ineffective .
  • An election observer appointing authority that believes that the election observer has been unlawfully obstructed or obstructed in the performance of the observer’s duties may seek: (1) an injunction under section 273.081, including temporary relief; (2) an order for a warrant under section 161.009 or section 273.061; and (3) any other remedy available at law. (Section 33.063).

Poll watchers are allowed on the signature verification committee

As amended by HB 3107, section 33.054 allows observers to attend any signature verification committee meeting if an SVC is established for the election.

Monitoring the sealing and transfer of data storage

  • An observer assigned to serve at the polling place may observe all election activities related to the closing of the polling place, including the sealing and transfer of a memory card, flash drive, hard disk, data storage device or other medium that now exists or is later developed for use with voting system equipment.
  • An observer duly accepted to work in the polling station has the right to monitor the transfer of election materials from the polling station to the regional counting center, the central counting station or another place designated for the processing of election materials. The authority responsible for the administration of the designated place must accept a duly appointed poll observer for service in the same manner as a poll observer is accepted and must accept the same number of observers who can serve.
  • A poll watcher may oversee the transfer of these materials from the early voting polling place or on Election Day to the appropriate county staff. However, if the observer wishes to observe additional activities at that location, such as EVBB or CCS meetings, he must submit a new Certificate of Appointment and Certificate of Completion to extend his survey observation activities to the new location.
  • An election official commits a Class A misdemeanor by willfully or knowingly refusing to accept an election observer for service as required.

Work time

A polling station observer may begin work at any time after the presiding officer arrives at the polling station on election day and may remain at the polling station until the presiding officer and clerks have completed their duties there. An observer who serves more than five consecutive hours may serve at the polling place during such hours as the observer chooses, except that if the observer is present at the polling place when the ballots are counted, the observer may not leave until the count is complete. finished. If a poll observer leaves the polling station temporarily to use a mobile phone or other wireless device, this temporary absence does not affect his 5 hours of continuous service.

Remove poll watcher

The presiding judge may not order the removal of an observer from the polling place for a violation of the Texas Election Code or any other law relating to the conduct of elections, other than a violation of the Penal Code, unless the violation was observed by an election judge or clerk. The presiding judge may call upon a law enforcement officer to request the removal of an observer if the observer commits a violation of public order or law.

For more, go to Texas Secretary of State website.

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