Poll watchers keep an eye on election proceedings

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado

ASPEN – Poll watchers, enlisted by both the Republican and Democratic parties, will be out in full force for Tuesday’s election – in Pitkin County and across the country.

Local Democrats are ready for a challenging day but are hoping it’s not, according to Blanca O’Leary, chairwoman of the party in Pitkin County.

Colorado is considered a key state in the presidential race and is likely to see close scrutiny at the polls as a result. In Pitkin County, Democratic poll watchers will be on alert in case a movement called True the Vote is active.

“We’re prepared for anything,” O’Leary said. “But we’re hoping for a dull and boring day.”

Texas-based True the Vote, which grew out of a tea party group, has mobilized volunteers across the country to monitor the polls and, according to its website, help “stop corruption where it can start – at the polls.”

The initiative has received a lot of media attention for its intention to challenge voter eligibility, and Democratic poll watchers in Pitkin County, as well as about a dozen from Garfield County and one participant from Eagle County, received training Monday in Aspen on how to “protect voter rights,” O’Leary said.

Democrats don’t know if the movement will be active locally, but they’ve been warned that it might, she said.

Frieda Wallison, chairwoman for the county’s Republican Party, said none of the locally assigned poll watchers for the GOP have been trained to challenge voters when they come to the polls.

“Any suggestion by anybody to the contrary is offensive,” she said.

Both the Democrats and Republicans will have poll watchers assigned to each of Pitkin County’s 10 precincts. They’ll be watching for irregularities and helping their respective parties keep tabs on who has not voted yet. Efforts to encourage voters who haven’t voted to get to the polls is a common strategy on Election Day, particularly in presidential election years.

“We’ll have a whole army of volunteers who are going to be out at the polls. We have every precinct covered,” Wallison said.

The county Clerk and Recorder’s Office issues a certificate of appointment and oath to each poll watcher. Watchers must be eligible electors chosen to work on behalf of a political party, issue committee or unaffiliated candidate for office.

They’re not allowed to come within 6 feet of election equipment or the actual voting, according to Janice Vos Caudill, Pitkin County clerk. One polling-place judge at each precinct is designated to interact with poll watchers as necessary, she said.


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