Due to the discord in many communities across the nation and individuals stoking fear about the voting process, this year, more than any other, people are mailing ballots early and depositing them in the ballot box at the county recorder’s office.
If you visit a polling place on Nov. 3, know that concerned citizens are volunteering as non-paid poll observers.
We have 17 polling places in Gila County. You will see poll observers at many of those locations.
A poll observer helps to increase confidence in the integrity of elections. Parties, candidates, citizen groups or independent organizations can deploy observers to witness the election process.
“There are rumors that observers are not going to be allowed,” said Eric Mariscal, Gila County Elections director, but this is false.
Official observers, credentialed by their political party affiliation, are allowed inside polling places, he said. These observers are trained to watch the polls. Otherwise, access is limited to voters and election workers.
Not just anyone can walk into a polling place or be inside the 75-foot limit and say they are an observer. A polling official can ask those without credentials to leave and may even call the police.
“The role of observers is important because voting, regardless of a person’s political party, should be encouraged and facilitated, not obstructed or challenged,” said Lynnette Brouwer, Gila County Democratic Party chair. “Observers, trained in the rules about voting and polling places, can be an asset at the polls.”
According to state law, political party observers are required to get credentials from their county political party chair and must present those credentials at their assigned voting location to observe inside the 75-foot limit. Each party representative must have the appointment letter in hand when entering the polling place and must show the appointment letter to the polling place inspector.
Observers shall not obstruct poll workers or the voting process, interact with voters, take videos or photos, act unprofessionally, or otherwise fail to obey the polling place inspector or rules established by the county.
“The election is a little more sensitive this year. There is more interest with more volunteers. The video training for observers tells the volunteers what they can and cannot do,” said Gary Morris, Gila County Republican Committee chair.
“I was an inside observer at an election site in the primary here in Payson,” said Pat, a volunteer. “Mostly, I just watched to see if any voter had difficulty. I was particularly interested in why people were given provisional ballots. I only contacted the inspector one time when I observed a marshal putting the provisional ballots in the wrong box. The inspector quickly corrected the mistake.”
Outside the 75-foot limit of the polling place, there may be other observers, but no one can obstruct voting lines the entrance, or otherwise engage in any conduct that may have the effect of threatening, harassing, or intimidating voters.
Here in Gila County, the credentialed observers plan on keeping watch for you.