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Poll Watchers Out in Force for Election Day

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Voters head to the polls on Tuesday, and when they check in, get their ballots and proceed to the voting area, poll watchers will already be in place.

Poll watchers – watch. They monitor, silently, for any problems and irregularities in the voting process. And in this election cycle, they’re getting more attention than in past years, thanks in large part to some of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign allegations of a “rigged election” against him.

There’s been no credible evidence supporting any of Trump’s claims of vote-rigging.

On Tuesday, poll watchers will be out in force in the northwest Florida. Twenty-five will be in Santa Rosa County. Supervisor Tappie Villane says they’ll also have a law enforcement presence at the venues.

“We have some where the deputies or the officers are there to help with traffic control if needed,” said Villane. “It’s not unusual for each and every election for us to work very closely with these folks. We’re obviously doing that for this election as well.”

In Okaloosa County, Supervisor Paul Lux says they’ve credentialed about 32 people as poll watchers from the Clinton and Trump campaigns and the local Democratic Party.

“The local Democratic Party I expect to be out because this is [sic] all people I know, are politically active, and live here in the community,” Lux said. “But most of the people who have signed up as poll watchers from the campaigns are people I’ve never heard of.”

Poll watchers from the major political parties will be joined by those representing other organizations, such as the non-partisan League of Women Voters. Charlyle Parrish, Director of Voter Services in the LWV’s northwest Florida chapter, says a poll watcher’s job does have limits.

“We can be right there in somebody’s face, but we certainly can look over and make sure things are going well,” said Parrish. “If we see any particular problem, we’ll notify our state office. This is an unusual election, so we’re just being maybe a little cautious.”

Escambia County’s 79 precincts will be covered by about 45 poll watchers, representing the presidential campaigns and the county’s Democratic Executive Committee, among others. Supervisor David Stafford says security is important, but you can’t go overboard with it.

“Because some folks consider that a disincentive for people to go to the polls,” Stafford said. “There are actually restrictions in the Election Code about law enforcement’s entry into a polling place. But that’s always on our mind, physical security and, in this day and age, cyber-security.”

Stafford, his 66 Florida colleagues, and those around the country are hoping for a nice even ride on Tuesday, when the polls are open from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

WUWF’s election return coverage kicks off at 7:00 Tuesday evening.

Dave came to WUWF in September, 2002, after 14 years as News Director at the Alabama Radio Network in Montgomery, Mobile and Birmingham and a total of 27 years in commercial radio. He's also served as Alabama Bureau Chief for United Press International, and a stringer for the Birmingham Post-Herald.