1 day until the election: What’s the difference between a poll watcher and poll challenger?

Stock image/Sara D. Davis
Stock image/Sara D. Davis (Getty Images)

As people head to polling places in the next day or so, the terms “poll watcher” and “poll challenger” will likely be tossed around at precincts.

But what exactly are they, and what functions do they perform?

What a poll watcher is

A poll watcher is someone appointed by the political parties or candidates to make sure their party has a fair chance of winning an election, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

They monitor election administrators at the precincts and may keep track of voter turnout for their parties, but can’t interfere in the electoral process other than reporting issues at polling places.

What a poll challenger is

A poll challenger is someone who can challenge whether a person is eligible to vote. They can be appointed or picked by a political party but they can only challenge something based on actual knowledge, not an assumption.

Can the same people be poll watchers and poll challengers?

It depends on the state. Some states also allow watchers to challenge voter eligibility, but other states separate the roles. For a list of each state’s qualifications and designations, click or tap here.

What qualifications do I need to have to be a poll watcher or challenger in Texas?

A poll watcher must be a qualified elector from the jurisdiction, and can’t be a felon, candidate, public official or related within the second degree of consanguinity to an election judge/clerk at the site, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. There are a maximum of seven poll watchers allowed at an early-voting site and a maximum of two allowed at a precinct on Election Day.

About the Author:

Keith is a member of Graham Media Group's Digital Content Team, which produces content for all the company's news websites.