Poll watching and voter protection fight to start election day

People standing in line to vote early at the Randall's grocery store on Braker and US 183 on Oct. 24, 2016 (KXAN Photo/John Dabkovich)
People standing in line to vote early at the Randall's grocery store on Braker and US 183 on Oct. 24, 2016 (KXAN Photo/John Dabkovich)

AUSTIN (KXAN) – In the last days before the election, local political parties will gear up to keep an eye on one another.  As the public’s eye has been focused on allegations of fraud and misinformation keeping people from the polls, Donald Trump continues to claim this election will be “rigged.”

But there will be hundreds of people spread throughout Central Texas eyeing voting locations for mischief.

The Travis County Republican Party runs a late night phone bank for their candidates Sunday. With less than 36 hours until polls open, they search for more people to be poll watchers, especially when the legitimacy of this election has been in the spotlight.

“There have been more people volunteering and raising their hand to say I would like to do something to make sure that things are run properly,” said  James Dickey, Chairman of the Travis County GOP. He’s leading a team of GOP poll watchers at 40 voting sites. He’s still deciding which exact locations will have a poll watcher.

Dickey says they’ll be making sure no one is campaigning within 100 feet of an election poll and people know the “voter-ID” rules now influx with a recent supreme court decision.

“It’s easy for things to get off the rails and the advantage of having a trained poll watcher at a location is, they can help if things go off the rails, things get righted properly,” said Dickey.

To become a poll watcher you have to contact a political party, candidate or organization for or against something on the ballot.You have to fill out an appointment of poll watcher form, take it to the polling location you’re going to watch, and check in with the location’s judge. If the poll watcher stays less than five hours, they cannot return. If they stay longer, they can come and go as they please.

If a poll watcher thinks they spot a problem, Dickey says they’ll call back to the GOP legal team who will take action if necessary.

The Democratic Party couldn’t tell me how many specific poll watchers will be out on election day. Many of their teams will focus on voter protection hotlines.

Jan Soifer says she became involved in voter protection after the 2000 election where Florida was decided by a few hundred votes.

“After that election I felt like I needed to do something to make sure that everybody who was qualified could vote,” said Soifer.

In 2012, she volunteered with the national Democratic Party and watched the polls in Ohio. She says it’s common for campaigns and parties in swing states to call in out of state attorneys to assist.

This year, she’ll be working the voter protection hotline in Texas, where polls are unusually close.

“In a contested election like this one, it is really critical that people know what their rights are and their rights are being protected,” said Soifer.

The Texas Secretary of State’s office says they’ll have nearly two hundred investigators in the field in Texas on Tuesday.

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