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What is a poll watcher: A look at what they do and how the process works in Ohio

A poll watcher is a person who a political party, candidate, citizen group or independent organization deploys to witness the electoral process.

LUCAS COUNTY, Ohio — Poll watchers have been a key topic of discussion following Tuesday night's debate between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. 

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

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, an election observer or poll watcher is a person who a political party, candidate, citizen group or independent organization deploys to witness the electoral process.

Their roles are different in each state, but in Ohio, poll watchers are partisan, meaning they directly represent their personal political party.

These watchers are tasked with observing election officials on election day to ensure the election process is fair for their party.

Usually, one watcher per party is allowed to observe the voting process at each election precinct.

However, being a poll watcher is a passive position, meaning they have no authority to interfere with the voting process at polling locations and they take no part in the counting of ballots.

"If a political party, or a group of candidates or things of that nature decide that they want to file to be observers - I know some people may call them poll watchers - that's up to them; that's not us, our job is to conduct the election,"  Director of the Lucas County Board of Elections LaVera Scott said.

Another detail from the Lucas County Board of Elections: you don't have to be registered to vote in a particular precinct to be a designated poll watcher in that precinct, but you will have to be appointed that precinct, you can't just show up. 

Poll watchers will have to be sworn in by their county's board of elections by taking an oath beforehand.