Democrats, Republicans prepare poll watchers for election day

Updated: Oct. 29, 2020 at 11:25 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - There will be more than 2,300 polling locations in South Carolina on Nov. 3. Inside those locations, non-partisan workers will administer hundreds of thousands of ballots to registered voters.

With all those votes the occasional problem or irregularity pops up.

Already during early voting process, the wrong ballots were sent out to around 1,300 voters, several people have complained about not receiving their ballots in the mail and reports of long lines at the polls have been documented.

To ensure these problems do not go unreported, each party is allowed to have observers in each polling location.

Democrats and Republicans are working to have eyes in as many locations as possible.

“Without giving away too much, I will say that we intend to have people covering key precincts all across South Carolina, observing what’s happening, making sure there are no problems,” said Drew McKissick, Chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party. “We are working on training as many people as we can to make sure we have the manpower we need on hand at each precinct.”

Legally, the poll watchers are not allowed to speak to voters or interfere in anyway.

They are there to observe and report back to their party or candidate. If an issue does crop up, the parties will then report it to the county or state election office.

McKissick says they biggest thing they are watching for is that people are who they say they are and are presenting proper identification.

“This goes back to ballot security and election integrity. It’s critical in our opinion that people know that their ballots have not been taken away from them because of fraud,” McKissick said. “In other words, if someone else is able to cast ballots illegally, then that takes away the influence of someone who plays by the rules.”

Chair of the Charleston County Democratic Party Colleen Condon says she has worked as poll watcher for the past 18 years, except for the year she ran for office herself.

She says the election process is trustworthy, but things do happen.

“In my own first election, there were people who absolutely had the legal right to vote and lived in my district and poll managers turned them away and said they weren’t eligible to vote,” Condon said, referencing a discrepancy between the voter roll data and the printed out copy at the precinct. “I can tell you since that time in 2005 I have always made sure we have had as many poll watchers as we can in Charleston County observing that process.”

Along with watching for people getting turned away, Condon says her poll watchers will also be on the lookout for any kind of voter intimidation. She says the president’s words during the first debate when he said, “watch the polls” was a dog whistle for unofficial poll watchers who show up on election day.

“I have been notified by the board of elections that the chief of police of North Charleston, the chief of police for the City of Charleston are prepared and ready . . . in case they see anything that could be seen as hostile or dangerous,” Condon said.

Official poll watchers must be a qualified voter in the county they are watching. They must also present the poll manager a signed letter from a candidate or party that identifies them as a watcher.

They are also required to have a name tag on specifying the name of the candidate or party they represent.

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