In Wake County, N.C., elections officials have received a couple dozen complaints about intimidating Republican poll watchers at early voting locations.
The offending observers have reportedly stood behind the registration table (where they’re not allowed) and taken pictures of the license plates of voters using curbside voting (also illegal), according to the director of the Wake County elections board. In other cases, director Cherie Poucher said, it’s been a matter of voters finding normal, legal observing activities intimidating.
The observers who’ve caused problems are all Republicans, Poucher said; the Democratic Party hasn’t submitted a list of registered poll watchers yet, but is expected to do so today.
As in every election, Republicans have raised the alarm of voter fraud, leading some to worry that overzealous poll watchers, intent on preventing fraud, may intimidate eligible voters.
In cases of poll watchers breaking election law, elections officials have taken the observers aside and explained to them the rules. It’s a time-consuming process, Poucher said, and one that often has to be repeated when new inexperienced observers show up the next day.
Poucher explained the situation as enthusiastic observers being “unclear” on election law. “I think they got a lot of misinformation at whatever training they had,” she said, adding that her office was getting more complaints than usual. “When you get a lot of new people involved in the process, they don’t really understand the process.”
The county Republican Party, which did not immediately respond to questions from TPM, told the News Observer that Republican U.S. House candidate Bill Randall recruited the poll watchers.
The North Carolina GOP has had other problems this year training poll watchers. According to local reports, a Republican board of elections official in Pamlico County created a training video for poll watchers. The video was so rife with errors that the state board of elections asked the state Republican Party not to allow the use of the video in any training programs.
(H/T Ed Cone)
Late update: A spokesman for the Wake County Republicans declined to give details about how it trains observers.
“We train them in the law as best we understand it. I’m not about to release our training manuals,” the spokesman, Jay Bryant, told TPM in an email. “But there is really no serious problem here. This is all new to everyone, because it is the first time party observers have ever been used at early voting sites. We haven’t done it before.”