Thousands of poll watchers signed up in Florida

By Scott McDonnell, Reporter
Last Updated: Tuesday, October 30, 2012

If you have cast your early ballot, you may have seen people inside the polling place with signs saying “we are not poll workers.”

If they aren’t poll workers, who are they?

Political parties assign them to make sure everything is on the up and up inside polling places.

Mike Ertel, the supervisor of elections in Seminole county, explains the role “poll watchers” will play this election season.

“Each campaign, so the Obama campaign will have a poll watcher, the Romney campaign will have a poll watcher. There can be like five people behind the inspector station when you first check in that can be there, being a fly on the wall,” said Ertel.

There are thousands signed up across Florida between the Republican and Democratic parties.

But they have specific rules to follow.

“Poll watchers are not allowed to take photos, they are not allowed to interact with any voters,” said Ertel.

According to Ertel, they should be easily recognizable by what they must wear.

“We have a big sign in Seminole county, it’s 8x11, it’s orange, and it clearly indicates “I am not a poll worker on the top”, and it also has the name, the address and the date of birth of the poll watcher.

Ertel says the poll watchers aren’t paranoid party backers looking to prevent the next hanging chad debacle. Rather, local volunteers looking to ensure the election process runs smoothly.

“The poll watchers are really there to make sure, give themselves a sense of comfort that everything going on in the polling room is something that they are comfortable with, that are comfortable that their campaign is getting a fair shake in the polling room,” said Ertel.

Along with plenty of voters, poll watchers, outside supporters and the lengthiest ballot in recent memory, lines are sure to be long during early voting, and on Election Day.