The role of poll watchers and challengers on Election Day

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Posted at 7:58 PM, Nov 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-03 22:10:24-04

BOISE, Idaho — Since the 2020 Presidential election, the election process has garnered more attention nationwide. Idaho, like other states, has seen an increase in poll watchers and challengers.

What is a poll watcher?

A poll watcher is requested by either a political party or candidate to watch the process of voting or the counting of ballots. Watchers can be present at the polling location or at a ballot counting center. If a watcher is present at the polling location, they cannot absent themselves until the polls are closed. If a watcher is at a counting station they are allowed to stay until election officers complete their duties.

Idaho law states "A watcher is entitled to observe any activity conducted at the location at which the watcher is serving, provided, however, that the watcher does not interfere with the orderly conduct of the election."

What is a challenger?

A challenger can also be requested by a candidate or party solely to challenge the registration of a voter before they receive a ballot and to observe the conduct of the election.

Both poll watchers and challengers must wear a name tag to clearly identify who they are.

Can I show up on election day and be a watcher or challenger?

No, Idaho law says the list of those who will serve as watchers or challengers must be given to the county clerk twelve days prior to the election, that deadline has already passed. The location and who will serve as what has already been determined.

If someone were to show up on Election Day and demand to be a watcher or challenger, they could face multiple charges including voter intimidation.

Voter intimidation under state law is a misdemeanor but is a felony under federal law:

"Every person who, by force, threats, menaces, bribery, or any corrupt means, either directly or indirectly attempts to influence any elector in giving his vote, or to deter him from giving the same, or attempts by any means whatever, to awe, restrain, hinder or disturb any elector in the free exercise of the right of suffrage, or furnishes any elector wishing to vote, who can not read, with a ticket, informing or giving such elector to understand that it contains a name written or printed thereon different from the name which is written or printed thereon, or defrauds any elector at any such election, by deceiving and causing such elector to vote for a different person, for any office, than he intended or desired to vote for; or who, being officer, judge, or clerk of any election, while acting as such, induces, or attempts to induce, any elector, either by menace or reward, or promise thereof, to vote differently from what such elector intended or desired to vote, is guilty of a misdemeanor." Idaho Code 18-2305

If you have any concerns when you cast your ballot you can talk to an election judge or election worker at your polling location.

Friday is the final day for early voting.
Election Day is Tuesday, November 8.
Polls are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Click here for more information including where to vote.