Explainer: What’s happening with poll watchers?

2020 Election

Volunteers, one representing each party, work in pairs to analyze ballots that have discrepancies and determine by consensus the vote at the Maricopa County Recorders Office where votes in the general election are being counted, in Phoenix, Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Dario Lopez-MIlls)

WHAT’S HAPPENING WITH POLL WATCHERS?

The campaign of President Donald Trump says Republican poll watchers are being improperly denied access to observe the counting of ballots. Not so, say election officials in key battleground states, who said rules are being followed and they are committed to transparency.

WHAT IS A POLL WATCHER, ANYWAY?

Someone who monitors voting or ballot counting.

Tasked this year with monitoring a record number of mail ballots, partisan poll watchers are designated by a political party or campaign to report any concerns they may have. With a few reports of overly aggressive poll watchers, election officials said they were carefully balancing access with the need to minimize disruptions.

Poll watchers have been a central element of legal battles that have erupted in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Nevada. While counting was largely finished in Michigan, the work continued Thursday in Pennsylvania and Nevada, where a narrow margin separated Trump and his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden.

Monitoring polling places and election offices is allowed in most states, but rules vary and there are certain limits to avoid any harassment or intimidation.

Monitors are not allowed to interfere with the conduct of the election and are typically required to register in advance with the local election office.

QUOTABLE:

“I’m proud of how transparent and secure our process has been. I know that the truth is on our side here.” — Jocelyn Benson, Michigan’s top election official and a Democrat.

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