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Indiana Has Rules On Who Can Watch The Polls

Signs at a polling location that say "vote here" during the 2019 Monroe County municipal elections.

(Seth Tackett, WFIU/WTIU News)

After the first presidential debate, some civic experts fear voters may turn up to Indiana polling places, unaware of rules for poll watchers in the state.

Matthew Baggetta is an associate professor at the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs. He was surprised to hear President Donald Trump encourage supporters to go watch polling places, because in most places strict rules cover who can watch the polls.

He says a poll watcher is appointed through a bona fide political party and needs to be registered with local election authorities. In Indiana, each political party, independent candidate, and media outlet is allowed one poll watcher per precinct.

“Beyond that, anyone who’s acting as a poll watcher is basically violating election laws," he says. "And depending on how aggressive they’re being, they might also be committing voter intimidation.”

Baggetta adds that in Indiana, voter intimidation is a felony.

It is not the role of a poll watcher to approach a voter at a precinct, he says. If a poll watcher observes something amiss, they would go inform election officials. 

He says he worries organizations unaware of these laws may send people to watch the polls, exposing those individuals to criminal penalties. 

 

poll watching rules
Courtesy of National Association of Secretaries of State

 

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