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General News    H3'ed 11/1/10

Pollwatcher Tools: A Carrot, a Stick, and a Checklist

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Pollwatcher's Etiquette and Pollwatcher's Checklist

(Pages 1 - 3 of the Chicago Pollwatcher's Toolkit,
created by Melisa Urda, revised by Roy Lipscomb.
For best results, print pages directly from Toolkit,

A. Pollwatcher Etiquette

Mantra: "Less Storm Trooper, More Ghandi"

Generally, election judges conduct the election to the best of their abilities, given the extent of their training. Since experience may vary between judges, it is best to give them the benefit of the doubt. A judge may have forgotten a particular procedure, may not know election law or may just be inexperienced.

Please be respectful. The election judges are appointees of the circuit court and as such are the highest authorities in the poll. The election code even gives the judges the power to, by consensus, eject a pollwatcher from the poll for interfering with the election.

The election code does not require a pollwatcher to mutely observe the election. You may talk to the judges as so long as you do NOT interfere with the election or touch election materials. If you notice a procedure that affects the voter, please talk to the judge rather than to the voter.


* DO NOT immediately ask questions when you arrive, or ambush the judge in what appears to be an Inquisition. Otherwise, the good will or comfortable dialogue you later try to cultivate will be strained. ("Less Storm Trooper, More Gandhi.") Imagine yourself in the same situation. Try to empathize with the judge's long, busy, complicated day.

* DO engage in easy conversation when you arrive, if the poll is not busy. When there's a break in the action, ask them how they're doing. Afterwards you can begin asking questions .

* CONSIDER bringing snacks for the judges! It's a long day.

BEFORE THE POLLS OPEN, AND DURING EARLY MORNING: (May be useful later in the day, too)

Some conversation openers:
1. "In some jurisdictions, the judge sets up the election machines the day before. Is that the case here?"
2. "You can set them up that early the day before?"
3. "Did the janitor/secretary/owner help you lock up the room after all that setting up?"
4. "That was a flurry of activity--I wonder if it'll be like this all day long!"
5. "Did you ever run out of ballots? Or get some wrong ones?"
6. "It's such long do you ever do it? Can I get you a cup of coffee?"

DURING THE DAY: (note that some questions are repeated for the sake of documentation)
1. "Did the janitor/secretary/owner help you lock up the room after all that work, setting up?"
2. "Have the touch-screen and op-scan machines been behaving for you today?"
3. "When did the problem occur? They seem to be pretty complicated." (Follow up later--if a technician made repairs or changes to the machines or memory cards, document his or her name. Check whether a judge's report sheet with the problem written up may be available.)
4. "I'm surprised so many people are coming to the wrong poll--did the location change?"
5. "I'm wondering if it would be easier to post a sign so voters can go over to the other precinct?"
6. "Now that it isn't busy, could you please print your name here on this Wrapup Report?" (Check legibility.)
7. "May I check the voter turnout? " (Ballot-application book should have consecutive numbers of voters)
8. "Were more ballots spoiled during this election than the last?"
9. "May I see the count of federal, provisional, and spoiled ballots?"

DO NOT ASK the judge their political affiliation. Some may take offense and say it is electioneering.

DO ASK the judges to write their names under the appropriate affiliation heading on the Wrapup Report form.

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Roy Lipscomb, Emeritus Director for Technology, Illinois Ballot Integrity Project

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