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Ohio voters can expect to see ‘poll observers’



Published: Tue, November 6, 2012 @ 12:06 a.m.

By SHEE WAI WONG

and KELSEY MISBRENER

TheNewsOutlet.org

If you are planning to vote today, don’t forget your driver’s license because someone will be watching.

These days, they like to be called “poll observers,” but in the past they were called “voter challengers.”

No matter what label is used, “they” will be at just about every voting location in Ohio making sure voters there are residents of the precinct, residents of Ohio, U.S. citizens and of legal voting age. If they challenge you, and you don’t have proof of any of this, your vote may be in jeopardy.

Though nearly all of the poll workers contacted said they were told by their appointing authority not to talk to the media, Pat Boyer-Jones of Akron, a retired nurse, said she had one goal in mind when she decided to be a poll observer. She’s there to make sure no one is discouraged from voting based on skin color or otherwise.

She is one of the 122 poll observers in Summit County.

These observers may watch the voting process, but they can’t disrupt it. If they spot an irregularity, they must leave the polling site and call the board of elections. The board then handles the issue. The role of the observers is laid out by the Ohio secretary of state.

Locally, Democrat-affiliated observers outnumber the Republican ones.

In Mahoning County, there are three Democrat poll observers and two Republican. In Columbiana County, the Democrat Party has four observers and the Republicans, two. Trumbull County has six Democrat observers and two Republican. In Summit County, the numbers have a vast difference: 119 Democrat observers compared with two Republican.

These numbers may change, however, because appointing authorities have until 4 p.m. Nov. 5 to appoint an observer.

The number of challengers seems to correlate to the numbers of registered voters in a county, as reported by the Ohio Secretary of State’s office: Columbiana, 66,775; Mahoning, 170,075; and Trumbull, 151,424.

“Their responsibility is to make sure everybody who votes has a legal right to vote,” said David Porter, professor of political science at Youngstown State University.

Voter-challenger laws have been on the Ohio books since 1803. They were changed in 1868 by the Legislature to require election officials to challenge voters who had a “distinct and visible admixture of African blood.” The state Supreme Court later overturned that requirement.

Despite that, the concept of poll observing has the stigma of racial bias and voter obstruction.

Porter said, historically, some observers would make voting so difficult that it would take 15 minutes or longer to cast a ballot.

“Poll judges simply challenged everybody and it would sort of mess up the electoral process and to suppress the vote in a particular neighborhood,” said Porter. “The concept of voter challenges “was supposed to facilitate and make sure it is a honest process.”

In 2005, after several complaints by voters and election officials, Ohio changed the rules governing challengers. They could no longer challenge voters at the polls. Instead, they could observe and then call the board of elections to report voter inconsistencies. The voter still gets to vote, but the elections board will examine that vote later to see if it is valid.

“I think the Ohio system is pretty reliable and pretty good. Other states, their challenge systems are probably too strong or too easy to challenge the vote,” said Porter.

Though voters won’t be directly challenged, they may see observers casually conversing with poll workers and gathering information on how the voting location is being run. This is allowed under the state’s directive. However, they are not allowed to enforce laws or act as advocates for voters.

Bradley Cromes, deputy director of the Portage County Board of Elections, has only worked at the board since January but has pored through the past records of poll observer activity.

“The worst thing that has happened is you may have the observer crowding the poll workers’ space,” Cromes said. “In some polling locations, it’s just a product of the space itself.”

Poll observers are appointed by political parties, groups of five or more candidates, or issue groups.

“Effectively, what the observers are doing for the authorities that appoint them is being their eyes,” Cromes said.

A.J. Atkinson contributed to this report.

TheNewsOutlet.org is a collaborative effort among the Youngstown State University journalism program, Kent State University, The University of Akron and professional media outlets including, WYSU-FM Radio and The Vindicator (Youngstown), The Beacon Journal and Rubber City Radio (Akron).


Comments

1Rockyroad(149 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

They aren't "Poll Observers."

Call them what they are: Republican Thugs, Republican Gangsters, Republican Brown-Shirts, Republican Fascists.

It is gangsterism at its highest under the Republican sham of "voter-fraud". Anyone who is accosted by one of these thugs should report it to the State Attorney General's Office and have them prosecuted under the RICO laws ( Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act ).

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2kk80586(227 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

rr- you don't comprehend very well do you? The article (if you read it) says the observers DO NOT "accost" the possible violator but rather report it to the election board. I show an ID to vote. Everyone should have to. It would be nice if we didn't have to show ID to vote but if not people like you would vote twice or more. That might effectively cancel out my vote. I know you'd like to do that. Now get out of moms basement and get a job. You only have about 2 months of welfare left.

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3ytownsteelman(627 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

Great response KK! RockyRoad does the same thing all libs do, they comment without reading the article.

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4coolnumbers(63 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

Typical reaction....what I read in this article says Republican observers are greatly outnumbered. You should have to show a valid, government issued, ID and that is that....

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5commoncitizen(961 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

RR, what about the Black Panthers in Philly? Is that OK?
You don't mention the Democratic observers??

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6Dagwood(110 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

Where are the observers in Columbus, Ohio (Morse Rd area)?

Two volunteer poll workers at an Ohio voting station told the Columbus Dispatch that they observed van loads of Ohio residents born in Somalia -- the state is home to the second-largest Somali population in the United States -- being driven to the voting station and guided by Democratic interpreters on the voting process. No Republican interpreters were present, according to these volunteers.

While it's not unusual for get-out-the-vote groups to help voters get to the polls, the volunteers who talked to the Dispatch observed a number of troubling and questionable activities.

A source, who wishes to remain anonymous, is a volunteer outside the Morse Road polling center. She has witnessed Somalis who cannot speak English come to the polling center. They are brought in groups, by van or bus. The Democrats hand them a slate card and say, "vote Brown all the way down." I wonder who they are telling them to vote for, for President?

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7BabaGhanoush(106 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

"RR, what about the Black Panthers in Philly? Is that OK?
You don't mention the Democratic observers??"

Course it's ok.
When they are democRAT thugs, it's perfectly ok:

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/...

Course cambridge will deny that this is taking place because no one else is reporting it.

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8BabaGhanoush(106 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

No voter fraud anywhere according to democRATS.

If it is happening there, it is happening here:

http://www.nbcbayarea.com/investigati...

NBC Bay Area used the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File to cross reference with the California state voter rolls using name, date of birth, and similar zip codes to find matches. We found over 25,000 questionable names still on the state voter rolls.

A closer look at the data revealed that some of the dead people were not only registered, but somehow, even voted, several years after their death.

Par for the course for dems.

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9BabaGhanoush(106 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

More Fraud:

http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/e...

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10BabaGhanoush(106 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

A question for dems, and you too cambridge:

If, as democrats insist, there is no such thing as voter fraud in the United States and then, according to them, we don't need voter ID laws.

And if, you really believe that the GOP is "stealing votes" and "suppressing the vote" then you should be FOR voter ID laws, not against them.

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11BabaGhanoush(106 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

A question for dems, and you too cambridge:

If, as democrats insist, there is no such thing as voter fraud in the United States and then, according to them, we don't need voter ID laws.

And if, you really believe that the GOP is "stealing votes" and "suppressing the vote" then you should be FOR voter ID laws, not against them.

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12molly(15 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

I always just assumed I had to bring identification to vote. Never gave it a thought, because I have to carry it for everything else.

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