Rules in place to allow poll watching, curtail electioneering

Grant D. Crawford | Daily Press

Cherokee County Sheriff's deputies escort ballot boxes to the Cherokee County Election Board.

Throughout his campaign for reelection, President Donald Trump has repeatedly suggested voter fraud will play a role in the election this year and has called on supporters to keep a watchful eye out at the polls.

While the president has suggested citizens stage themselves at polling places to watch for any misbehavior or evidence of cheating, there are rules in place to prevent loitering or intimidation of voters arriving to cast ballots. The only people allowed in the election enclosure are voters and the precinct officials, said Cherokee County Election Board Secretary Tiffany Rozell.

“If they are going to poll watch, they have to get permission and they have to do it outside of the precinct,” said Rozell.

Poll watchers would have to fill out forms with the election board and stay at least 50 feet away from the precinct they are watching. Law enforcement may escort poll workers who are transporting ballots to the election board, but are not to poll watch.

Meanwhile, voters are not allowed to wear clothing or apparel in favor of a particular candidate or state question.

“That is electioneering and it is illegal,” said Rozell.

If voters wear anything that could be considered political, such as “Make America Great Again” hats, it can be perceived as electioneering, and the individual would likely be asked to take it off. Voters should also not disclose who they are voting for while in the voting precinct.

“Especially with social distancing, it’s discouraged,” said Rozell. “There used to be a law that you couldn’t take a picture of your ballot and disclose it, but there’s new legislation now that ballot selfies are permissible, but you cannot disclose the vote within the election enclosure, which is the precinct where the ballot box is and the precinct officials are.”

This year, for early voting, the election board will utilize the Cherokee County Community Building, where voters will fill out their voting form, present their ID, and wait in line. The election board will have runners take voters from the community building to the precinct.

In a Facebook Saturday Forum, readers were asked whether they are concerned about voter fraud or voter intimidation.

“I didn’t fear voter fraud until Trump started asking his followers to commit it,” said Ryan Cannonie, presumably referring to the president’s suggestion that citizens try to cast a ballot twice to test election board’s ability to sniff out fraud. “I believe it’s something like 143 convictions in the last 20 years. I have better odds of winning the Powerball and striking oil in my backyard on the same day than voter fraud changing an election.”

Gary Morgan said voters should keep a lookout for anything suspicious.

“Let’s not misconstrue what President Trump has suggested,” said Morgan. “Of course our president knows about loitering and intimidation. We should just keep out eyes open while voting for anything unusual.”

Travis Wyman believes voter fraud already happens all the time.

“It’s a rigged game,” he said. “There’s evidence all around if people are willing to open their eyes and not be biased towards their gang.”

Some people don’t have faith in sending their ballot through the mail.

“I have already voted and took my ballot directly to my county election board,” said Nannette Morrison. “I don’t trust the post office to get it there, to be honest.”

Susan Feller said fraud won’t happen at the polls themselves.

“The fraud is happening now with voter suppression, placement of fake ballot boxes, and an overt campaign to create doubt in a system that has worked well for hundreds of years,” she said.

In an online poll, readers were asked if the possibility of voter fraud, whether mail-in or at the polls, concerns them. Among the respondents, 43.9 percent said “Yes, and I believe the fraud will favor the Democrats"; 36.6 percent answered, “Not at all"; 11.4 percent said “Somewhat"; 7.3 percent answered, “Yes, and I believe the fraud will favor the Republicans"; and 0.8 percent were uncertain.

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