AUSTIN (KXAN) — There’s a new poll watcher training program in Texas that allows interested residents to become certified poll watchers for the upcoming election in November.
Under Texas law, anyone who wants to be a poll watcher must get a Certificate of Completion from the Texas Secretary of State’s office through the program.
They must also get a Certificate of Appointment from a candidate, political party or specific-purpose political action committee in order to be accepted as a poll watcher at a particular polling location, meeting place for an early voting ballot board or signature verification committee, or central counting station where voted ballots are tabulated.
The new training program enhances the previous program by including a quiz after each lesson to ensure each person completing the training will fully understand the material, a press release from Secretary of State John Scott said. The training program requires each prospective poll watcher to answer 100% of quiz questions correctly before moving on to the next lesson.
Certificates of Completion obtained Sept. 1, 2022 or later will expire on Dec. 31, 2022.
“Elections in Texas rely on hard-working local officials and members of the public working hand-in-hand to ensure the voting process is conducted with integrity and transparency,” Secretary Scott said.
The new program launched Thursday. “[It] will ensure that every individual who wishes to observe and report on the voting process in their county understands Texas election law, knows how to spot violations of the Texas Election Code, and is properly trained on how to report any irregularities they may observe,” Scott said. “Ensuring transparency is a key aspect of maintaining election integrity, and our office encourages all Texans who want to become poll watchers to study the training material thoroughly and treat all voters, poll workers and election officials with absolute respect while observing the voting process.”
Becoming a poll watcher
In Texas, a poll watcher is a person appointed to observe the conduct of an election of behalf of a candidate, political party, or the proponents or opponents of a measure (specific-purpose political action committees)
Acceptance at a polling location
Poll watchers must receive a certificate of appointment and present that certificate to the presiding judge at the polling place. The forms for those certificates are available below:
- Certificate of Appointment of Poll Watcher by Candidate
- Certificate of Appointment of Poll Watchers by Political Party
- Certificate of Appointment of Poll Watcher for Propositions or Measures
- Certificate of Appointment of Poll Watcher by Registered Voters on Behalf of Write-in Candidate
Poll watchers must also complete the Texas Secretary of State’s program and present a certificate of completion to the presiding judge in order to be accepted as a poll watcher. Once you complete the training, print the certificate of completion and have it ready to present to the presiding judge along with your certificate of appointment.
Oath and qualifications
Before being accepted, the poll watcher must take the following oath, administered by the presiding judge at the polling place:
“I swear (or affirm) that I will not disrupt the voting process or harass voters in the discharge of my duties.”
To become a poll watcher, you must:
- Be a registered voter of the territory (e.g., city, school district) covered by the election and of the county for November general elections for state and county officers (held on even-numbered years), primary elections, or other countywide elections;
- NOT be a candidate for public office in an election held on the day the watcher seeks to serve;
- NOT hold an elective public office;
- NOT be an employee of an election judge or clerk serving at the same polling place;
- NOT have been finally convicted of an offense in connection with conduct directly attributable to an election; AND
- NOT be related within the second degree of consanguinity or affinity (as determined by Tex. Gov’t Code, Secs. 573.022-573.025) to an election judge or clerk serving at that polling place. These include spouses, siblings, grandparents, and grandchildren. A watcher may be related to the candidate the watcher is representing.
Removal from a polling place
A presiding judge at a polling location may not have a watcher removed from the polling place unless a violation of election law or any other provision of law relating to the conduct of an election is observed by an election judge or clerk. However, a presiding judge may remove a poll watcher for a violation of the Penal Code, regardless of whether the election judge or clerk observed the violation. Additionally, a presiding judge may call a law enforcement officer to request a poll watcher be removed if the poll watcher commits a breach of the peace or a violation of law.
Poll watcher’s guide
To learn more about a poll watcher’s duty and the types of illegal activities a watcher should look for, please read the Texas Secretary of State’s Poll Watcher Guide.
For more information about becoming a poll watcher or poll worker in Texas, visit www.votetexas.gov/get-involved/.