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Poll Watchers

Friday, November 04, 2022

Poll watchers, sometimes referred to as "election observers," are individuals who may observe steps in the election process. Each state has its own laws and procedures on when and where observers can be present, as well as who can observe the election. Poll watchers may be members of organizations such as a political party or nonpartisan group, candidate representatives, international observers, exit polling groups, academics or relevant federal and state agencies. Some states also allow members of the public to view election processes in person, though these rules also vary.  

The role of a poll watcher is to observe and monitor the election, without violating voter privacy or disrupting the election. Poll watchers are different from challengers, though in some jurisdictions, poll watchers may challenge the eligibility of voters or the validity of ballots. The following websites provide some example guidance from national, state-level, and local jurisdictions.   


EAC: Election Observers Overview

EAC: Quick Start Guide on Poll Watchers 

Carter Center: Who Can Observe U.S. Elections?  

National Association of Secretaries of State: State Laws on Authorized Poll Watchers & Voter  

National Conference of State Legislatures: State Poll Watcher Qualifications Policies 

National Conference of State Legislatures: State Policies on Election Observation 


Alabama: Poll Watchers Guide 

Alaska: Guide for Poll Watchers 

Arizona: Guidance on Polling Place Conduct  

District of Columbia: Poll Watchers  

Georgia: Poll Watcher Training Manual  

Hawaii: Poll Watchers Factsheet  

Iowa: Poll Watchers Guide 

Kansas: A Guide to Poll Agent Rules 

Louisiana: Poll Watchers 

Maryland: Instructions and Information for Challengers, Watchers, and Other Election Observers 

Mississippi: General Guidelines Pertaining to Poll Watchers  

New Mexico: Election Challengers, Watchers & Observers Information  

North Carolina: Tips for Monitoring or Observing the Election at Polling Sites 

Ohio: Being an Election Observer: Things to Know 

Pennsylvania: Guidance Concerning Poll Watchers and Authorized Representatives   

South Dakota: Poll Watcher and Observers Guidelines 

Texas: Poll Watchers Guide   

Wisconsin: Election Observers 


Arlington County, VA: Guidelines for Candidates and Political Parties Regarding Poll Watchers, Outside Poll Workers, and Placement of Political Signs 

Chicago, IL: All About Poll Watchers: Rights & Responsibilities  

Denver, CO: Poll Watchers Information Packet  

Duval County, FL: Poll Watchers  

Hamilton County, TN: Poll Watcher Guidelines 

Jefferson County, WA: Election Observer’s Guide 

Multnomah County, OK: Opportunities for Observation 

New York City, NY: Poll Watchers Guide  

Orange County, CA: Handbook for Election Observer Guidelines 

Ravalli County, MT: Guidance to Election Officials in Regard to Official Poll Watchers and Election Observers