Despite Democratic Objections, Poll Watchers Are Working to Ensure Election Security

AP Photo/Charles Krupa

Election integrity is one of several issues looming over the 2022 midterm elections as it is the first race being held after the controversial 2020 presidential election. Many on the right still question the outcome of that race and are seeking to ensure Tuesday isn’t rife with fraud and cheating.

Republicans have recruited an army of poll watchers who have been keeping an eye on the proceedings in their localities. The issue has caused a stir in some states, with Democrats accusing these individuals of intimidating voters.

On a Sunday appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Ronna McDaniel, chair of the Republican National Committee called on poll watchers to obey the laws while insisting that the majority of those involved are not engaging in intimidation.

“Nobody should be intimidating or breaking the law,” she said. “But poll watching is not intimidating.”

Host Dana Bash asked about McDaniel’s effort to encourage people to become poll watchers on Steve Bannon’s podcast. The RNC chair said she is “never telling people to harass” voters.

“We absolutely want them to abide by the law,” she added. “If they don’t, they shouldn’t be allowed.”

There was a controversy that arose in Arizona over armed poll watchers stationed at ballot drop boxes. A judge issued a temporary restraining order against the individuals, who were alleged to have taken photos of voters at these locations and followed them.

However, the organizers of the ballot-watchers were able to come to an agreement regarding their activities:

Signed by a federal judge on Tuesday night, the agreement bars gathering within 75 feet of drop boxes to watch voters or photographing them within that distance. Flashing firearms or body armor within 250 feet is also banned, and pro-Donald Trump organizer Melody Jennings, the founder of an entity called Clean Elections USA, must correct election misinformation that she posted on Truth Social.

The court-ordered message that Clean Elections USA must post on its website — and Jennings must post on Truth Social — reads as follows:

“It is not always illegal to deposit multiple ballots in a ballot drop box. It is legal to deposit the ballot of a family member, household member, or person for whom you are the caregiver Here are the rules for ballot drop boxes by which I ask you to abide:”

The order, signed by a Trump appointee, does not require Clean Elections USA to admit liability, but bars the carrying of firearms “[o]penly” within 250 feet of drop-off locations.

In another case, Republicans in Green Bay, Wisconsin, filed a lawsuit against the city for not allowing poll watchers a sufficient level of access to the polls. The judge in this case ruled in favor of the Republican National Committee, which argued that the clerk did not allow election observers to stand in the hallway where voters filled out and deposited their ballots.

“I don’t know why Green Bay was balking at letting our observer observe. I mean, that doesn’t make any sense, does it?” said U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI).

“All we’re trying to do is restore confidence in our election system. We’re not trying to gain any partisan advantage,” Johnson added. “The way you restore confidence in the system is you make sure we have observers.”

As of last week, the RNC had filed 73 lawsuits related to election integrity. But will it even matter? Republicans are already expected to win big in the midterm elections, so it does not seem likely there will be much fuss over election fraud, even if it does exist. Indeed, the true test will occur in 2024, when the outcome might not be quite as certain.

Still, it is encouraging to see more people willing to become involved in the political process as poll watchers or other volunteer positions. Perhaps with folks like these, it will be another step towards restoring a level of confidence in America’s elections.


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