NORWALK, Calif. (NewsNation Now) — Like many other states, early voting started this week in California, but for Election Day there is increasing concern over potential disruptions and voter intimidation as both the Trump and Biden campaigns are actively recruiting poll watchers.
It has election officials sounding off with some reminders of the rules.
At the registrar’s headquarters in Los Angeles County on Friday, a fairly steady stream of voters came to cast early ballots or drop theirs off into one of the official boxes.
The watching on Election Day is a concern heading into Nov. 3.
There could be a record turnout of not only voters — but also poll watchers — sparked by President Donald Trump’s statement during last week’s debate.
“I’m urging my supporters to go into the polls and watch very carefully,” said Trump.
Since then, both campaigns have ramped up the recruiting of supporters to monitor voting at polling places.
Some feel the extra presence alone may be intimidating.
“I hope it does not stop people from coming out to express themselves. Whatever side they may be. Nothing should stand in the way of our constitutional right,” said Frances Garcia, an L.A. County voter.
In California, concern prompted a detailed memo this week from the Secretary of State’s Office. It stresses that poll watchers are not allowed to block access to voting locations or even to talk to voters. The memo also notes that firearms possession at a polling place is a felony.
Essentially, the role of an observer is strictly to observe.
That is also the case in Nevada.
“When a person is an observer, they have to follow certain guidelines that are set out. They are not active participants in the voting process. They are passive observers,” said Wayne Thorley, Nevada Department of Security of State for Elections.
The laws governing poll watching vary from state to state. In California, anyone is allowed to be an observer. But officials stress it is illegal to get in the way of the voting process and the state law carries a prison sentence of up to three years.