Forget all that concern about provisional ballots, improperly denied absentee ballot applications and the like. What is really the biggest wild card for next week’s presidential election in Ohio and elsewhere? Citizen poll watchers. So says Doug Chapin of the University of Minnesota, a widely acclaimed expert in how elections are conducted. “I think the biggest thing to watch next Tuesday is the impact of citizen poll watchers, including but not limited to those affiliated with Houston-based True the Vote,” he said yesterday on his Election Academy blog.
True the Vote and its affiliated Ohio organization, the Voter Integrity Project, have signed up as observers at polling places Tuesday in various precincts across the state.
Chapin worries about the reliability of voter information the groups may have. Earlier this fall, the Voter Integrity Project unsuccessfully tried to remove dozens of Franklin County voters from the rolls that members said were improperly registered.
“If the number of poll watchers is small, their challenges limited and their information accurate, then the impact on polling places should be small,” Chapin said. “If poll watchers are legion, they are extremely aggressive and their lists are rife with errors, it’s not an overstatement to suggest that chaos will result – especially given that some voters may not take too kindly to being challenged and meet aggression with aggression.”
Franklin County Elections Director William Anthony said he hopes such a threat would be minimized by poll worker training.
“We are concerned but do not believe it will be a big problem. Our poll workers will make us aware of any activity not sanctioned or outside of training. We have a poll worker hot line number to handle this and other situations that may arise at a polling location. Remember all polling locations have equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans they will let us know if anything out of the ordinary occurs.”