Duval County

What you need to know about poll watchers and their role in the elections

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Sparking debates, election poll watchers are suddenly in the spotlight during this 2020 election.

Action News Jax’s Courtney Cole explains what “poll watchers” are and what you need to know about what their role allows them to do.

They’re not voters, and they’re not poll workers.

But you may see one when you cast your ballot in person, early or during Nov. 3.

Cole is talking about a poll watcher.

He or she is someone who watches the voting and counting to make sure nothing out of the ordinary is happening.

“It’s really just one of the checks and balances of the election process,” said Chris Chambless, Clay County’s supervisor of elections.

Despite President Donald Trump’s call for people to watch for elections issues at the polls, not anyone can just decide they’re going to be a poll watcher.

Each state has different laws.

“It’s dictated by 100.131 Florida Statute. And typically, you would sign up with the party or candidate to be a poll watcher,” Chambless told Action News Jax.

You can read the full statute here: http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0100-0199/0101/Sections/0101.131.html.

As voters are coming out to vote, they must know that unless they’re reporting any potential problems, interfering in the election process or any type of voter intimidation is illegal.

“I definitely hope that people behave themselves, things go as smoothly as they can,” said Candice Davis.

Davis, a registered Clay County voter, told Cole she’s voting by mail for the first time, and she hopes early voting will help make poll watchers less of an issue.

“I have wondered whether it’s going to discourage people from showing up?” Davis said.

Chambless told Cole he can only remember very few issues they’ve had with poll watchers in the last 23 years he’s been in office.