Poll watchers help ensure elections are run fair and honestly. This page details the qualifications necessary to become a poll watcher and also some of the important duties and responsibilities.
What are poll watchers?
A poll watcher is a representative of a candidate, political party, civic organization or proposition who is legally in the polling place to observe the conduct of the election. All poll watchers must be registered voters and have a valid credential.
What are the qualifications necessary to be a poll watcher?
- Be a registered voter in Illinois.
- Have valid credentials. Photocopies of credentials are not valid.
- Have separate credentials issued for each voting site selected to observe. Poll watchers are required to surrender their credentials at the polls and sign the Poll Watcher Register.
Who appoints poll watchers?
Candidates, political parties, civic organizations, and organized proponents and opponents of a ballot proposition may appoint poll watchers.
After being appointed, where does a poll watcher get their credential?
The poll watcher would receive their credential from the candidate, political party, civic organization or organized proponent and opponents of a ballot proposition who appointed them.
What may a poll watcher do?
Observe the conduct of the election in the precinct polling place, which includes the right to:
- Hear and see the instructions given to each voter on the demonstration unit.
- Visually compare the signature in the signature book with the signature on the voter’s application for ballot. This includes standing behind the judges while the comparison is made.
- Observe the judge make the proper marking in the signature book to indicate the voter has voted.
- Challenge any voter if he/she believes the voter is not qualified to vote in the precinct. The challenge is directed to the judges, not the voter, and the judges will determine whether the challenge is valid.
- Observe the judge initial and issue each ballot card and envelope.
- Observe the judge deposit the voted ballot in the ballot box.
- Inspect vacant voting stations to ensure the unit has not been tampered with or damaged.
- Observe the canvass of the vote. This includes observing the judges process ballot cards and envelopes and remove the ballot cards from the envelopes.
What may a poll watcher not do?
- Remain in the polling place without surrendering a credential to the judges.
- Instruct voters inside the polling place or within 100 feet to the door to the room serving as the polling place.
- Electioneer inside the polling place.
- Leaf through spindled applications for ballot, signature book or other official election materials.
- Observe a voter receiving lawful assistance at a voting unit.
- Touch or handle any election materials.
- Be disorderly or disruptive of the voting process.
- Continue protesting to the judges after the judges have ruled on a protest made by the poll watcher.
What should a poll watcher do if they spot an error?
If an error or violation of the laws occurs, the poll watcher should call it to the attention of the election judges. If the error or violation is not corrected, he should call the County Clerk’s office at 217-854-3214. Under no circumstances should the poll watcher argue with the decision of the election judges.