The integrity of elections is a concern of all citizens, and although poll watchers may represent particular candidates, political parties, or specific-purpose political action committees, their main interest is in the conduct of a fair and honest election.
A poll watcher’s role in an election is established by Chapter 33 of the Texas Election Code and is defined as follows:
Poll Watcher – a person appointed to observe the conduct of an election on behalf of:
- a candidate,
- a political party, or
- the proponents or opponents of a measure (specific-purpose political action committees).
NEW LAW: SB 1 (2021, 2nd C.S.): Provides that it is the intent of the legislature that watchers duly accepted for service under Chapter 33 be allowed to observe and report on irregularities in the conduct of any election, but may not interfere in the orderly conduct of an election. A watcher appointed under Chapter 33 shall observe without obstructing the conduct of an election and call to the attention of an election officer any observed or suspected irregularity or violation of law in the conduct of the election. [Sec. 33.0015].
Throughout this guide, all references are made to appropriate sections in the Texas Election Code, unless otherwise noted.
QUICK POINTS TO REMEMBER
• In order to serve as a poll watcher, you must show up with a certificate of appointment that includes:
o Name, residence address, and voter registration number of the poll watcher;
o The signature of the person(s) making the appointment;
o The election and the number of the precinct where the poll watcher is to serve;
o An indication of the capacity in which the appointing authority is acting;
o In an election on a measure, an identification of the measure (if more than one is to be voted on) and a statement of which side the appointee represents;
o An affidavit to be executed by the poll watcher stating that the poll watcher will not have possession of any mechanical or electronic means of recording images or sound while serving as a watcher unless the poll watcher disables or deactivates the device; and
o The signature of the poll watcher.
• You must complete the poll watcher training administered by the SOS and present the certificate of completion to the presiding judge. (NEW LAW: SB 1 (2021, 2nd C.S.)).
• Be ready to counter-sign the certificate of appointment in front of the election judge. This serves not only to certify that the person presenting themselves as a poll watcher is
the person named on the appointment, but also as the execution of the affidavit that the watcher does not have possession of any prohibited recording devices.
• If you are serving on election day and want to vote in a different precinct (from the location of service), we recommend voting during the early voting period, before your service as a poll watcher.
• Take the oath administered by the election officer. (NEW LAW: SB 1 (2021, 2nd C.S.)).
A poll watcher must:
- be a registered voter of the territory (e.g., city, school district) covered by the election and of the county for November general elections for state and county officers (held on even-numbered years), primary elections, or other countywide elections; [Sec. 33.031]
- NOT be a candidate for public office in an election held on the day the watcher seeks to serve; [Sec. 33.032]
- NOT hold an elective public office; [Sec. 33.034]
- NOT be an employee of an election judge or clerk serving at the same polling place; [Sec. 33.033]
- NOT have been finally convicted of an offense in connection with conduct directly attributable to an election; [Sec. 33.035] and
- NOT be related within the second degree of consanguinity or affinity (as determined by Tex. Gov’t Code, Secs. 573.022-573.025) to an election judge or clerk serving at that polling place. These include spouses, siblings, grandparents, and grandchildren. A watcher may be related to the candidate the watcher is representing. [Sec. 33.033].
Below you will find a Poll Watcher’s Guide, along with forms to appoint a poll watcher by candidate, proposition, and party. You must complete the poll watcher training administered by the SOS and present the certificate of completion to the presiding judge. (NEW LAW: SB 1 (2021, 2nd C.S.)).