When you vote at an Early Voting site or Election Day polling place, you may see poll watchers observing voters and poll workers. Read below for information about who are poll watchers and what they can and cannot do in the voting site.
What Are Poll Watchers?
Candidates, political parties, and political committees can designate observers to stay inside Early Voting sites or Election Day polling places. These observers are known as poll watchers. They monitor the election process to make sure voters and poll workers are following election laws. If the poll watcher notices anything, he or she can talk with the clerk at the voting location. Poll watchers are prohibited from talking to or intimidating voters.
What Are the Requirements to be a Poll Watcher?
You must be a registered voter in Leon County to be a poll watcher here. You cannot be a candidate in the election or a law enforcement officer.
How Do I Become a Poll Watcher?
To be a poll watcher, you must be designated by a political organization and then authorized by the Elections Office.
Candidates for office, political parties, and political committees sponsoring ballot measures designate poll watchers. If you are interested in being a poll watcher, you should contact one of these organizations.
How Does a Political Organization Designate Poll Watchers?
The party chair, committee chair, or candidate sends a list of poll watchers to the Elections Office. The file should be emailed to Vote@LeonVotes.gov. Separate lists must be sent for Early Voting sites and for Election Day Polling Places
The list needs to be on the Designation of Poll Watchers Form (DS-DE 125)
Once we receive the file, we review the list and mail a badge to each authorized poll watcher.
Deadlines for Submitting Lists and Mailing Badges
Deadline for submitting lists
Deadline for mailing badges
Noon, 14 days before Early Voting begins
Seven days before Early Voting begins
Noon, 14 days before Election Day
Seven days before Election Day
Where and When Do I Observe Voting?
Each party, campaign, and political committee can have one poll watcher in each Early Voting site or Election Day polling place.
You can be a poll watcher for Early Voting, Election Day, or both. You will have separate badges for Early Voting and Election Day voting.
The political organization that designated you may want you to observe at a specific location or time. Ask them about your assignment.
What Can I Do as a Poll Watcher?
When you arrive at the voting location, you must immediately check-in with the clerk and produce photo identification. You must wear your poll watcher badge. You can then stay inside the voting location and observe voters and poll workers.
- You can also stay inside the no-solicitation zone. The zone extends for 150 feet around the entrance to each voting location.
- You can observe the drop box at each Early Voting site.
- You can leave the voting location and return later in the day.
- You can ask the clerk questions.
- You can use a silent electronic device.
- You can issue voter challenges.
What Is a Voter Challenge?
You can challenge the right of a person to vote. The challenge must be in writing, contain an oath listed in statute, and delivered to the clerk at the voting location. The challenge can also be filed with us up to 30 days before Election Day. The clerk will provide a copy to the challenged voter. The voter then needs to vote by provisional ballot.
The option to challenge a voter is open to all voters, not just poll watchers. It is a crime to file a false voter challenge.
What Am I Prohibited from Doing as a Poll Watcher?
As a poll watcher, you can observe voters and poll workers. However, you cannot obstruct or disrupt the election. This includes:
- You cannot speak to voters. This includes voters within the 150-foot no-solicitation zone.
- You cannot speak to poll workers (except for the clerk).
- You cannot interact with the voting equipment.
- You cannot come closer to the check-in table or privacy booths than is reasonably necessary to observe.
- You cannot interfere with a voter’s right to mark their ballot in secret.
- You cannot volunteer to help voters complete their ballot. You can only provide assistance if a voter specifically requests assistance from you and completes paperwork.
- You cannot take photos, videos, or audio recordings.
- You cannot have a phone conversation inside the voting location. If you need to make a phone call, you can leave the voting location and return.
- You cannot wear partisan or political clothing, including stickers, hats, pins, signs, bags, phone cases, or other displays.
- You cannot remove or conceal your poll watcher badge.
- You cannot bring a firearm within the voting location (even if you have a concealed weapons permit).
- You cannot file a false voter challenge.
- You cannot intimidate voters, threaten, or coerce voters.
The clerk has the authority to maintain order at the voting location. If you do not follow these rules, the clerk may ask you to leave.
How Can I Prepare to be a Poll Watcher?
You should familiarize yourself with election operations so that you understand what is going on inside the voting location.
The Polling Place Procedures Manual contains an overview of Early Voting and Election Day operations. You can obtain a copy from the Division of Elections website.
The organization that designated you to be a poll watcher may provide training or resources. Contact them for further information.
What Should I Bring with Me?
You should be prepared for a lengthy day. Poll workers will not provide you with food, drink, a chair, or other items. Depending on the voting location, you may not have access to a restroom, electrical outlets, or wi-fi service.
You should bring the following supplies to the voting location:
- Photo identification and poll watcher badge (required)
- Bottled water
- Small cooler (if needed for food, drink, or medicine)
- Pen and paper
- Portable charger (for electronic devices)
- Folding chair (if space permits)
Who Should I Contact with Questions?
- If you have general questions about serving as a poll watcher, contact elections staff at (850) 606-8683 or Vote@LeonVotes.gov.
- If you have questions about your specific assignment as a poll watcher, contact the organization that designated you to be a poll watcher.
- If you have questions about voting operations in the voting location, ask the clerk.
Can I Observe Other Election Activity?
There are additional opportunities to view election activity that are open to all voters, not just poll watchers.
- You can attend Canvassing Board meetings. The Canvasing Board accepts Vote-by-Mail ballots, adjudicates provisional ballots, certifies election results, and takes other actions.
- You can observe election workers as they process Vote-by-Mail ballots. Once the ballots are accepted by the Canvassing Board, election workers open the envelopes and count the ballots.
Visit our County Canvassing Board page to learn more.