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This election has more eyes on it than normal, including poll watchers

Posted at 11:20 AM, Nov 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-03 12:20:29-05

BELL COUNTY, TX — The hotly-contested election of 2020 may have more eyes on it than any that ever came before. Not the folks who run the election but those who just, watch.

Let's meet a poll worker.

"My motivation is to be involved in the electoral process," said Deborah Gonzales of Palm Beach County, Florida Gonzales feels right at home at the polling places she watches for the Republican Party.

"What am I most concerned about in this election? That every vote is counted legitimately," she explained.

Candidates, parties and even groups backing causes can appoint poll watchers that promise to uphold the law.

"Their rock bottom approach should be integrity and integrity is achieved by honesty and forthrightness absolutely," said Col. Jon Ker, of the Texas Republican Executive Committee.

They've always been there, but this year made headlines with this endorsement.

"I'm urging my supporters to go into the polls and watch very carefully," said President Trump in the first presidential debate.

But why the duplication of labor? Poll watchers help ensure both the candidates and the parties see everything stays on the up-and-up.

Election administrator Kathy Van Wolfe will tell you, poll watchers have been a part of elections for a long, long time. But this year, COVID presents a few extra issues.

In Dallas, polls had to close briefly for cleaning and new workers after a COVID scare.

"One of the issues that we have with that is that we're trying to have enough room in our polling places for social distancing so making room for additional people sometimes it's going to be a hardship in some of our locations," said Van Wolfe.

Also a hardship, not talking with voters, even if you know them.

"So these people are so important to democracy," said Bell Democratic Chairperson Chris Rosenberg who calls the work, vital but tedious sometimes. "I have such great admiration for election workers they spend a 13-14 hour day if I compare it to an airline pilot it's long periods of boredom punctuated by sheer terror," she said.

An analogy shared by the attorney who represented the George W. Bush Campaign in the infamous "hanging chad" election of 2000.

"It's hours of boredom and moments of terror," said Attorney Mark Dunbar.

Sean Middleswart of Colorado has been there for some of the terror, "I've done this since 1996 and on occasion, I have had to have a couple of poll watchers removed," said the Arapahoe County Election Judge.

But mostly they stand there, clearly identified... and watch... again, without even talking to voters, because interfering in an election, can get you a criminal charge.

So campaigns and parties say, don't be intimidated by poll watchers, be encouraged, they want to make your vote count.

"Keeping it fair and honest. That's what we're there for," said Gonzales.

Honesty, integrity and forthrightness what we expect of our candidates, and what poll watchers like Debbie Gonzales have sworn to uphold.