In order to be a poll watcher, an individual must be certified by the SOS after completing the new program, which began September 1.
The training program and certification are required under Senate Bill (SB) 1, the election integrity bill authored by Sen. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola) and passed during the first special session of the 87th Legislature.
“The new poll watcher training program launched today will ensure that every individual who wishes to observe and report on the voting process in their county understands Texas election law, knows how to spot violations of the Texas Election Code, and is properly trained on how to report any irregularities they may observe,” a press release from the SOS office reads.
Not only must poll watchers complete the required training through the SOS office, but they must also be certified as a poll watcher on behalf of a candidate, party, or a political action committee dedicated to a particular ballot measure.
To qualify as a poll watcher, one must be a registered voter in the county, be neither an office holder nor a candidate, and must not have been convicted of an election offense.
Certified poll watchers can observe activities at the polls during early voting and on election day as well as curbside voting, central counting station activities, signature verification activities, the inspection and securing of voting equipment, and the transfer of election materials.
A complete poll watcher’s guide is available on the SOS website.
“Ensuring transparency is a key aspect of maintaining election integrity, and our office encourages all Texans who want to become poll watchers to study the training material thoroughly and treat all voters, poll workers, and election officials with absolute respect while observing the voting process,” the SOS added.
Through its independent election integrity program, the Republican National Committee (RNC) is gearing up to have poll watchers present across the state, having trained over 2,000 poll watchers already.
“The RNC’s election integrity program has been on the ground for over a year actively training and recruiting poll watchers across the state to ensure transparency at the polls. We are replicating these efforts in battleground states across the country and are leading the Republican ecosystem to ensure that elections are free, fair, and secure,” national spokesperson Gates McGavick said.
Libertarians are also encouraging poll watching. The party is sharing the availability of the SOS training with county chairs and asking them to recruit volunteer poll watchers in their area, according to Texas Libertarian Party Chair Whitney Bilyeu.
True Texas Project (TTP), a conservative grassroots network across the state, has held election worker workshops across the state this summer, where they tried to “dig deep into what it’s like to be a poll worker/watcher, from experienced people,” TTP President Fran Rhodes told The Texan.
TTP emphasizes the importance of training poll watchers. “There is so much to know and learn on this subject, one class just isn’t enough. Poll watchers are desperately needed as the front line defenders of election integrity, but poll watchers cannot be effective if they have not been adequately trained,” Rhodes explained, adding that they want to make sure poll workers feel empowered to “speak out when [they] see irregularities.”
The Texas Democratic Party did not respond to a request for information about its poll watching program by the time of publication.
Disclosure: Unlike almost every other media outlet, The Texan is not beholden to any special interests, does not apply for any type of state or federal funding, and relies exclusively on its readers for financial support. If you’d like to become one of the people we’re financially accountable to, click here to subscribe.
Kim Roberts is a regional reporter for the Texan in the DFW metroplex area where she has lived for over twenty years. She has a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School and a Bachelor's in government from Angelo State University. In her free time, Kim home schools her daughter and coaches high school extemporaneous speaking and apologetics. She has been happily married to her husband for 23 years, has three wonderful children, and two dogs.