Poll observers’ tasks subject of Board of Elections meeting

Published 4:02 pm Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Beaufort County elections officials want the county’s political parties up to speed when it comes to election observers’ responsibilities during the upcoming Nov. 8 general election.

To that end, the Beaufort County Board of Elections and the parties’ leaders — preferably each party’s chairman and another party official — are scheduled to meet at noon Thursday at the board’s office (1308 Highland Drive, Suite 104, Washington) to discuss election observers and related matters. The meeting is open to the public.

“What do y’all think about doing a lunch with the party chairs together and set out a plan over observers? Let’s talk about poll workers. Let’s just kind of get on the same page, ” Kellie Harris Hopkins, the county’s elections director, asked the board at its Sept. 6 meeting. “I know that they’re probably having questions … about security issues, about different things going on.”

The board agreed to her suggestion. “I like that idea,” board member Tom Payne said. Fellow board member John Tate responded, “I like it a lot.”

“The more they know about the process, the smoother, I think, this stuff is going to go. … I want it to be friendly. …” Hopkins said.

Tate said the meeting should help make it clear what observers inside a polling place and “electioneers” (people campaigning for candidates) outside a polling place can and cannot do during while polls are open. “The sooner you can set it up, the better,” board Chairman Jay McRoy said.

“I want them to have as many observers as they possibly can possibly get, but we need to tell them how to do it and what is allowed and what is not allowed,” Hopkins said. She told board members to “carve out about two hours, in case it goes long.”

“The sooner you get them so they understand where we’re coming from and understand what to do, the better,” McRoy said.

“I really don’t want them to think we’re an obstacle in their way,” Hopkins said.

“We just want to be accurate,” McRoy added.

Poll observers (also known as poll watchers) monitor activities at polling places for political parties, which appoint them. Each party’s chair must submit a list of that party’s observers to the local elections board at least five days before the election. The observers watch for errors or irregularities that could harm their party’s (or the public’s) interest. They are seated inside the polling place. They cannot interfere with the voting process or watch voters mark their ballots. What they observe could be relevant in a lawsuit or a complaint about voting- or election-related issues.





About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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