Legality behind President Trump’s message to supporters, ‘go into the polls and watch very carefully’

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It was last Tuesday night during the Presidential Debate when President Trump told voters to keep an eye on the polls.

“I’m urging my supporters to go into the polls and watch them very carefully because that’s what needs to happen,” Trump said. “I’m urging them to do it.”

But, if you were planning on following the Commander in Chief’s orders, the Chief Election Official for Jefferson County, Probate Judge Naftel says that isn’t entirely legal. He says there are only two poll watchers allowed in each precinct, and they’re appointed.

“The parties in a general election can appoint one poll watcher per precinct each,” Naftel said. “So you can have one Democratic party and one Republican party poll watcher at each of our 175 precincts.”

Those appointed poll watchers can then observe from opening to closing, acting only as a fly on the wall.

“What you can’t do is campaign, you can’t try to influence voters, you can’t really interact with the voters. You’re not supposed to wear anything that would portray whichever party you’re there for or that advocated for candidates. You can’t wear any memorabilia, hats, t shirts, anything like that.”

And if you’re not one of the credentialed and party-appointed poll watchers, you can only be at the polls to vote. And it’s illegal to stay, that’s according to Secretary of State John Merrill.

“In Alabama, you can’t just wake up on election day and say, I think I’m going to spend the days as an election observer,” Merrill said. “That’s not permissible by state law.”

But if you’re interested in the job, Merrill said t’s not too late to ask your party if you could fill the role.

“If they want to be an election observer or a poll watcher, they need to contact the state Republican Party or the state Democratic Party and indicate their interest to those entities, so they can be signed up to help the party of their choice,” Merrill said.

You can find the contact your state political party’s office below:

Alabama Republican Party: 205-212-5900

Alabama Democratic Party: 334-262-2221


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