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Election observers are official actors that promote legitimacy and transparency. They are typically appointed, trained, and are barred from voter intimidation by state and federal laws.

Observation of the voting and ballot counting processes promotes confidence and integrity. It ensures that all rules and procedures are followed fairly and that no one candidate or political party is disadvantaged.

Various aspects of the elections process—including in-person voting at the polls as well as vote counting and verification—are monitored by both international and domestic groups. Domestic monitors can be either partisan or nonpartisan and are typically nominated and trained by their party or group before observation takes place.

Poll Observers

‘Poll observers’ is a broad term that means different things in different states. Typically, it refers to the monitoring of in-person voting sites by credible and appointed political party representatives, campaigns, organizations, and civil groups at the state or local level.

In most states, poll observers are meant to be silent watchers of the voting process at individual voting sites. These observers record turnout for political parties and raise concerns about the voting process to party representatives and election administrators.

Standards of Behavior

All observers are expected to attentively monitor the vote counting process without obstructing or interfering in operations. They must follow all state regulations.

No one is allowed to threaten or intimidate voters. If you see or experience voter interference or intimidation, call 1-866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683)

Can the public act as an election observer?

Individual voters are not allowed to remain inside the voting area beyond the time it takes them to complete the voting process. By and large, the public cannot act as poll watchers unless they are explicitly nominated by their political party or civil society organization. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, “Virtually all states govern how many [partisan poll watchers] a party can send to each polling place, and at least 41 states have some kind of accreditation process for them.”

If you are interested in watching the vote counting process, check with your local election official. Many local election officials livestream this process, so you may be able to observe from the comfort of your own home.

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