Monday, October 17, 2016
Voter Intimidation and Poll Watchers
In the wake of allegations that there will be widespread voter fraud in November, I want to give everyone a primer on what is and is not permitted.
Voter intimidation and discriminatory conduct - is illegal under federal and Pennsylvania law. Any activity that threatens, harasses or intimidates voters, including any activity that is intended to, or has the effect of, interfering with any voter’s right to vote, whether it occurs outside or inside the polling place is illegal. Those who discriminate can be fined $5,000 and jailed up to five years. Intimidation has a maximum ten year sentence.
Examples of voter intimidation and discriminatory conduct include:
• Aggressive behavior inside or outside the polling place.
• Blocking the entrance to the polling place.
• Challenges to voters based on the voter’s lack of eligibility to register to vote.
• Direct confrontation or questioning of voters, or asking voters for documentation when none is required.
• Disrupting voting lines inside or outside of the polling place.
• Disseminating false or misleading election information.
• Election workers treating voters differently in any way based on race or other protected characteristics.
• Ostentatious showing of weapons.
• Photographing or videotaping voters to intimidate them.
• Poll watchers confronting, hovering or directly speaking to voters.
• Posting signs inside the polling place of penalties for “voter fraud” voting or support for a candidate.
• Routine and frivolous challenges to voters by election workers and private citizens that are made without a stated good faith basis.
• Using raised voices, insulting offensive or threatening language, or making taunting chants inside the polling place.
• Vandalism of polling places.
• Verbal or physical confrontation of voters by persons dressed in official-looking uniforms.
• Violence or using the threat of violence to interfere with a person’s right to vote.
Police Officers and the polling place - Unless they are voting or serving a warrant, police officers must keep their distance - at least 100' - even if they are in plain clothes. They are permitted inside the polling place only if their assistance is sought by elections officials.
Poll Watchers. - Each party can designate up to three watchers at each precinct. In addition, each candidate my name two watchers per precinct, but only one watcher per party and one watcher per candidate is allowed inside the room at any one time. The watchers are entitled to be present from the moment election workers arrive to set up until they leave. They act as watchdogs to ensure the process is fair, and also often help get voters to the polls.
* Poll watchers must keep their distance from the voting booth, and election tables. but must be able to hear the names of voters as they are called.
* A poll watcher may compare his list of voters against the "Numbered List of Voters," but only under the supervision of an election worker, and only when it can be done without slowing down those who are there to vote.
* A poll watcher, election worker or, for that matter, any other voter may only challenge a voter on only two grounds: that the voter does not live in the precinct; or the voter is not the person the voter says he or she is.
* A poll watcher must refrain from any interaction with the voter and instead lodge his challenge with the elections judge. If that voter fills out an affidavit and produces a witness vouching for him, he must be allowed to vote. If unable, he still must be allowed to cast a provisional ballot.