Local Safety and Poll Watching in the Upcoming Election

What are poll watchers and how will the current political climate affect the security of local voting locations?


Every four years, many Columbians make the trek to nearby polling locations to cast their vote for the next United States President. This year, just like any other, individuals who work the local polls are responsible for dealing with a multitude of issues, ranging from poll intimidation to fires, to ensure the integrity of the general election. Current tensions among both parties regarding voting are running high due to claims of voter fraud, voter suppression, and encouragement for voters to certify both the validity of their votes and other citizen’s votes. 

One hot topic regarding the imminent election is that of poll watchers. These are people who can be officially assigned by the chairman of the county committee of each political party named on the ballot to each place where votes are counted. Poll watchers are permitted to watch staff count votes but are not allowed to speak directly to voters or prevent something from happening at the said polling location. While some are concerned with the potential actions of this year’s poll watchers, local officials have ensured that there should be no such interference from the official poll watchers.

“The main thing that they’re supposed to do is just sit and watch,” Boone County GOP Chairman Tony Lupo said about the poll watchers. “They’re not supposed to talk to people, they’re just supposed to sit and watch and make sure that things are going well.” 

Regarding the anxiety surrounding voter intimidation and its effects this year, if an ordinary individual happened to act as a poll watcher themselves they could face punishment ranging from a misdemeanor to a felony. 

“There are four classes of election offenses that are all crimes under the election law,” Boone County Clerk Brianna Lennon said. “Having one of those on your record will prevent you from voting at any point ever in the future.”

To guarantee the safety and security of the local polling locations, the poll workers will undergo standard tabletop exercises and thoroughly plan. The Boone County clerk’s office will also work with local law enforcement if necessary just as they would during any other election. Our polls even have steps in place to prevent voter fraud, although regional officials have expressed their faith in this year’s local polling running smoothly. Lennon indicated her belief in the best way to compose a secure polling station by saying, “the best way to prepare for it is just by making sure that we have plans for every eventuality.”