KNOW YOUR RIGHTS: ELECTION DAY EDITION
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW *
What it is: Election observation (or “poll watching” as it more commonly termed) is the process by which parties, candidates, citizen groups or independent organizations utilize observers to “watch” the election process before, during, and/or after the election.
Why it matters: Credible nonpartisan observers are interested in promoting integrity, transparency, and efficiency in the electoral process and often have no stake in the political outcome. In addition, during contentious or highly competitive elections, impartial observation can provide an important avenue for reliable feedback about which aspects of an election went well and what parts could improve.
Challenges: The United States has a highly decentralized election administration system can make election observation especially challenging This means that U.S. election administration occurs largely at the county level and regulations that govern observers vary widely across the 50 states and even across counties within a single state. Due to this decentralized system, voter intimidation can occur. Abuses of poll watching have become a recurring concern in communities or polling sites where People of Color, elderly people, and young people turn out to vote in larger numbers.
Pennsylvania Laws Concerning Election Observation
PA currently acts under the Pennsylvania Election Code 0f 1937. This law does permit observation of the electoral process. The state allows for pre-election, Election Day, and post-election procedures to be observed all by partisan citizens.
Rules about poll watching in PA: Poll watchers must be a registered voter in the county; can only be a poll watcher in one district; candidates can appoint two watchers per district and political parties can appoint three watchers per district.
How this affects our upcoming election: Pennsylvania Republicans have filed a lawsuit, arguing that their activists have First and 14th Amendment rights to watch polls anywhere. There are two more voting session days before Election Day when the bill could be addressed. However, Governor Tom Wolf has insisted that he will veto the bill if it makes it to him because he believes it could promote voter intimidation.
What You Should Bring To the Polls
- If you are a first time voter in Crawford County/Meadville, you should bring one of the following: College ID, Voter Registration Card, State ID, or Driver’s License
- If you have voted in this county before, you do not need to bring any form of identification but it is recommended that you bring at least one form of it in case your eligibility to vote is challenged by poll watchers.
- It is ideal that you do not attend the polls alone in the event that your eligibility to vote in Crawford County/Meadville is challenged and an affidavit is presented to sign. The affidavit must then be signed by someone who can vouch for your eligibility.
*Compiled by Allegheny College’s Andrew Goodman Foundation Vote Everywhere Ambassadors, 2016.