Get the Facts on Poll Watchers

Bruce Maples (bruceinlouisville@gmail.com)
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Worried about Trump’s “Poll Watching Police” disrupting your polling place? Fired up about protecting the vote, and think you want to go be a poll watcher yourself to counter Trump’s talk? Before you get scared and decide to stay home, OR decide to pick some random polling location and show up, you’d better get the facts on poll watchers in Kentucky.

First of all, the idea of “poll watchers” or “poll challengers” is not new. Kentucky has had laws governing poll watchers since at least 1974, with the most recent amendments coming in 2010. If you want to read the statutes yourself, they are here.

For those who don’t want to dig through Kentucky Revised Statutes, here is the gist of the law:

  • Each party is allowed to have no more than two (2) challengers per precinct.
  • The names of the challengers must have been submitted to the county clerk by the head of the local party at least 20 days before the election.
  • The challengers must be registered voters in the county where they are challengers.
  • If asked by an election official, the challengers must produce written documentation, signed by the chair of their local party, showing that they are duly selected challengers.
  • Challengers may challenge the eligibility of a voter, but only to the precinct election officer (not to the voter). If the voter then fills out an “oath of voter” form stating that the voter is, indeed, eligible, the challenger will have to sign the same form stating the reason for the challenge.
  • The challenger may not
    • Electioneer or campaign on behalf of any candidate, issue, or political party;
    • Handle official election materials except as provided in KRS 117.187;
    • Attempt to intimidate or harass, verbally or otherwise, any voter who is being challenged or any 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.
  • If the challenger violates any of the above, the precinct election officer can warn the challenger. If the challenger continues to violate these provisions, the precinct election officer shall order the challenger out of the polling place. Any challenger ordered from the polling place shall be prohibited from acting as a challenger in any precinct in any election for a period of five (5) years.

There you have it. No matter what Trump or anyone else says, hordes of people cannot sign up to be challengers at the last minute. And, they cannot disrupt the election or disturb the polling place.

So, do what you know you should do: Go vote, without fail.

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Title image by fairfaxcounty


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