Local Politics

Trump says poll watchers can combat election fraud, but crowds of people monitoring NC polling sites aren't allowed

Posted October 1, 2020 4:46 p.m. EDT
Updated October 2, 2020 2:33 a.m. EDT

— President Donald Trump continues to suggest the upcoming election will be rife with fraud and that his supporters need to take steps to fight against it.

"I hope it's going to be a fair election. If it's a fair election, I am a hundred percent on board. But if I see tens of thousands of ballots being manipulated, I can't go along with that," Trump said during his debate Tuesday night with Democratic challenger Joe Biden.

The president encouraged volunteers to stand watch at polling sites nationwide, but Wake County elections officials said Thursday that it’s not only unnecessary, it's also illegal.

Under North Carolina law, political party chairs in each county can designate two observers per polling place and 10 at-large observers who are residents of the county. Observers must be registered voters of the county in which they are appointed and must have "good moral character." Political candidates are prohibited from serving as an observer.

"I think it’s good to have folks urging confidence by having some observers in the polling place. That’s very different from random people showing up and trying to barge in and disrupt things," said Gerry Cohen, a member of the Wake County Board of Elections.

"You can’t just walk into the polling place to observe things. You can certainly stand outside of the 50-foot electioneering area [outside] and observe people," Cohen said.

Andrew Taylor, a political science professor at North Carolina State University, said claims of rigged elections and uncounted ballots are wildly exaggerated.

"There really isn’t a lot of evidence that we’ve seen significant amounts of fraud one way or the other," Taylor said.

Coehn said his biggest concern isn’t voter fraud. Rather, it's that people won’t vote out of fear their ballot won’t be counted.

"I don’t think people should be intimidated by people in the debate threatening that something will happen," Cohen said.

A century-old state law allows the chief judge at each polling location to arrest anyone trying to disrupt voting, he added.

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