WHAT IS A POLL WATCHER?
A candidate, political party or political committee may ask someone to go to a polling place or early voting area and observe. This person is known as a poll watcher. The poll watcher observes the election process to see if any violation of the election laws occurs. If a violation occurs, the poll watcher is to refer the violation to the clerk of the precinct.
WHAT QUALIFICATIONS ARE NEEDED TO BECOME A POLL WATCHER?
Each poll watcher shall be a qualified and registered voter of Madison County. Each candidate, political party and political committee shall designate, in writing, prior to noon of the second Tuesday preceding the election poll watchers for each polling room. Designations of poll watchers for early voting areas shall be submitted in writing to the Supervisor of Elections at least 14 days before early voting begins.
WHERE DOES THE POLL WATCHER GET AUTHORITY AND APPROVAL?
The poll watcher gets his or her authority from F.S. 101.131. Upon receiving written notification, (Poll Watcher Designation Form DS-DE 125), the Supervisor of Elections shall approve or disapprove the applicant for Early Voting, no later than 7 days before early voting begins. Poll watchers for Election Day polling rooms shall be approved or disapproved on or before the Tuesday before the election. The Supervisor shall furnish to each precinct a list of poll watchers designated and approved for the early voting areas or polling rooms.
WHO CANNOT BE A POLL WATCHER?
A candidate, sheriff, deputy sheriff, police officer, or any law enforcement officer is not allowed to serve as a poll watcher.
HOW MANY POLL WATCHERS ARE ALLOWED IN A POLLING PLACE?
Each candidate, political party and political committee may designate one poll watcher in each early voting area or polling place at any one time during the election.
WHAT CAN'T THE POLL WATCHER DO?
The poll watcher should not interfere with or impede the conduct of any election. He/she should come no closer to the official's table or the voting booths than is reasonably necessary. Unless there is an observation of a questionable nature, the poll watcher is not permitted to speak to the voter or the inspector. All questions must be directed to the clerk of the precinct.
DOES THE POLL WATCHER NEED ANYTHING?
The poll watcher is responsible for supplying any necessary items or materials he or she will need at the polling place that day. The Supervisor of Elections shall provide each designated poll watcher, an identification badge which identifies the poll watcher by name. Each poll watcher must wear the badge while performing his or her duties.
WHAT ARE THE PRIVILEGES OF BEING A POLL WATCHER?
The main function of a poll watcher is to observe the occurrences at the polling room.
1. The poll watcher may execute his/her right to see that the ballot box is empty, if done before the casting of the first ballot.
2. A poll watcher may observe from a reasonable distance, the distribution of the ballot to the voter, and the depositing of the ballot into the tabulating equipment.
3. Upon the observance of what the poll watcher considers a violation, the poll watcher may challenge a voter's right to vote by stating his/her case to the precinct clerk. The challenge shall be reduced to writing with an Oath of a Person Entering Challenge F.S. 101.111
After the casting of all ballots, the poll watcher may observe the closing procedures at the polls.
The Poll Workers and the Supervisor of Elections Office staff are the sole authority in the polling place on Election Day. No other person may handle or touch election supplies and materials. Florida Law provides for poll watchers - upon request - to be present in the polling place during an election. Poll watchers are intended to observe the conduct of the election and their prime concern is the integrity and fairness of the election. Poll watchers are official observers only. They may observe the conduct of the election before, during and after the polls close. All poll watchers must be approved and listed. The Supervisor of Election Office approves the list as submitted by a candidate, political party, or political committee. A poll watcher must show identification to the Clerk of the precinct when entering the polling location. The Clerk will check the identification against the list from the Supervisor of Elections office.
POLL WATCHERS MAY NOT INTERACT WITH VOTERS. ALL QUESTIONS MUST BE POSED TO THE CLERK FOR RESOLUTION. POLL WATCHERS WILL NOT BE PERMITTED TO COME CLOSER THAN IS REASONABLY NECESSARY TO THE OFFICIALS TABLE OR VOTING BOOTHS.
If a poll watcher challenges a voter's right to vote, the clerk shall immediately deliver a copy of the oath of the challenge to the voter. The challenged voter shall be allowed to cast a provisional ballot. Any elector or poll watcher filing a frivolous challenge of any person's right to vote commits a misdemeanor. However, electors or poll watchers shall not be liable for any activity or duty taken in good faith. Remember to bring your own materials or necessities. Poll watchers may not wear anything advertising a candidacy or advocating for or against an issue. Electioneering or any kind of campaigning must not take place in the polling place or within 150 feet of the entrance of the polling place during voting hours.
THE SUPERVISOR OF ELECTIONS
The primary goal of the Supervisor of Elections is to help bring about a greater understanding of and participation in the electoral process. For more information on election laws and procedures, write or call the Supervisor of Elections.