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What's the difference between a poll worker and a poll watcher?

The laws surrounding poll watchers vary from state to state. We explain who is eligible to be a poll observer in Ohio and what are the rules.

TOLEDO, Ohio — After President Donald Trump told his supporters to watch the polls during this election cycle, questions about the role of poll watchers and what the law says about them arose. 

"I am urging my supporters to go into the poll and watch very carefully because that's what has to happen. I am urging them to do it," Trump said. 

A poll worker is someone who gets paid to perform different duties either on Election Day or as a seasonal worker during an election cycle. Depending on the duty the poll worker will perform, they will require training. 

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When it comes to poll watchers, some states have different rules on what that entails while the practice is illegal in others. 

In Ohio, poll watchers are called observers who are appointed by political parties or groups of candidates at least 11 days before Election Day. Their role is limited to observing the proceedings of the election. 

Therefore, observers can watch the election but cannot intimidate any voter or handle any election materials. If an observer sees any irregularities, they have to contact the board of elections to raise their concerns. 

In Ohio, poll observers cannot engage in election campaigning; hinder or delay a voter in reaching or leaving their polling location; interfere with the election; intimidate, harass or try to influence voters or precinct election officials; carry a firearm or deadly weapon. Additionally, observers cannot serve as law enforcers or advocate for voters; be a peace officer, highway patrol trooper, member of a fire department, armed service member, organized militia member or any person wearing a uniform. 

You can check the Ohio Revised Code for more information regarding poll observers.

If you see any irregularities while casting your ballot you can contact your local county board of elections. You can also text WTOL 11 at 419-248-1100 with your concerns and we'll look into it. 

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