Politics

Who's watching the poll watchers?

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Early voting is still underway and when you go to the polls, someone may be watching you. Some say these poll watchers are intimidating.

Poll watchers are part of the process -- volunteers who watch people vote looking for any abnormalities. This election season, Democrats and Republicans are threatening poll watchers with jail time. Which made us curious about just what's going on at Texas polling places?

Your vote is private. Personal. Confidential by law. So what's going on here and why is that woman watching him vote so closely? She's a poll watcher and believe it or not, she's not breaking the law.

But this election season, there's an awful lot of attention on poll watchers.

Earlier this month, Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings accused the Houston-based organization True The Vote of suppressing the vote through a nationwide poll watching effort, telling the group's leader, "Actions that intimidate people from exercising any Constitutional right, including the right to vote, may be criminally prosecuted."

"We hear it. It's part of a narrative. It's part of a narrative to create a worry that frankly has no basis," said Bill Ouren with True The Vote. "A worry that there is somebody there to suppress the vote."

Then last week, Texas politicians ganged up on the United Nations, intent on sending just two poll watchers to Texas to monitor our election. Attorney General Greg Abbott told those United Nations types if they go to a poll, they can go to a Texas jail, too.

So with all that attention on poll watchers and potential crime and jail and a big early voting turnout, we figured there must be some sign of a serious problem. Which brings us back to this woman -- a poll watcher at Acres Homes for Robert Talton, a Republican candidate for County Attorney.

Here the precinct judge has complained about aggressive poll watching twice since early voting started. And they're the only complaints county-wide.

Larry Banks was one voter we saw who was being watched.

Ted Oberg: How did it make you feel? Larry Banks: Like this (points thumb down). Oberg: Did it make you feel intimidated or no? Banks: Yea, a little bit.

Poll watchers aren't supposed to talk or interact with voters at all and can only talk to the judge. This woman was clearly doing a little more than that.

That woman didn't want to speak with Eyewitness News. We spoke with the candidate she was working for, Robert Talton, who told us he is not aware of any complaints against his poll watchers.

No formal investigation of the activities there at Acres Homes was ever conducted.

(Copyright ©2014 KTRK-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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