Illinois Pollwatcher Information
– 10 ILCS 5/17-23
WHAT ARE POLLWATCHERS?
Pollwatchers, sometimes referred to as challengers, checkers or simply watchers, are election observers who aid in ensuring the free and fair conduct of elections. Pollwatchers may be in the polling place before the polls open, during the actual voting hours and after the polls close. Each pollwatcher must surrender his credentials to the judges when he enters the polling place. The pollwatcher must also sign the POLLWATCHER REGISTER. If an individual refuses to surrender his credentials or if the credentials are not valid, they must leave. ALL credentials remain in the possession of the judges. Credentials are returned to the Election Authority after the polls close.
WHAT ARE THE QUALIFICATIONS NECESSARY TO BECOME A POLLWATCHER?
A pollwatcher must be registered to vote in the State of Illinois and MUST be affiliated with the party or organization he/she is representing.
WHO AUTHORIZED AN INDIVIDUAL TO BECOME A POLLWATCHER?
Pollwatchers may represent established political parties, candidates, qualified organization of citizens or organized proponents or opponents of ballot propositions. Each pollwatcher must have credentials issued by the Grundy County Clerk or the Illinois State Board of Elections. These credentials must be presented by the pollwatcher, to the election judges, immediately upon entering the polling place.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE SPECIFIC RIGHTS OF POLLWATCHERS?
- Before the first ballot is cast, pollwatchers may observe that the ballot box is empty.
- Pollwatchers may position themselves near enough to the election judges to examine the applications for ballot.
- Pollwatchers may observe as the judges compare the voter’s signature on the application with the signature on the registration records.
- Pollwatchers may watch as the judges initial and distribute the ballots to voter, and as the ballots are deposited into the ballot box after the voter has voted.
- Pollwatchers may challenge a person’s right to vote. A reason for the challenge must be stated. (Possible reasons include the person voted earlier in the day, the person moved, or the person lacks qualifications)
- The judges of election determine whether or not to sustain a challenge.
- Pollwatchers may observe the counting procedures after the polls close.
WHAT SHOULD A POLLWATCHER DO IF HE OBSERVES AN ADMINISTRATIVE ERROR OR SEES AN APPARENT VIOLATION OF THE PART OF AN ELECTION JUDGE OR VOTERS?
The pollwatcher should politely inform the election judges if they observe an error or an apparent violation. If the error or violation continues, the pollwatcher should record his/her observations, immediately contact the election authority and remain at the polling place until proper authorities arrive. Under no circumstances, should a pollwatcher argue with the election judges or interfere with the election process.
IS THERE A LIMIT TO THE NUMBER OF POLLWATCHERS ALLOWED IN A POLLING PLACE?
Yes, the number of pollwatchers allowed in the polling place at any one time is limited by law. A candidate may always appoint two pollwatchers; per precinct, while all other organizations may only appoint one pollwatcher; per precinct. The only exception to this is that established political parties may appoint two pollwatchers; per precinct at each General and Consolidated General Election. If over-crowding interferes with the orderly conduct of the election, the judges of election may limit the number of pollwatchers. The election judges may cause the removal of any pollwatcher who is disrupting the election process.
Pollwatchers are official observers only. They may observe the conduct of the election before, during, and after the polls close. All pollwatchers must present valid credentials upon entering the polling place.
The judges of elections are the sole authority in the polling place on Election Day.
No person, except a judge, may handle or touch election supplies and materials.
A law enforcement official may be in the polling place to preserve order and carry out lawful directions given by the judges.
Electioneering or any type of campaigning must not take place within the Campaign Free Zone (100 horizontal feet from the entrance to the room in which voting is being conducted).
Where ballots are counted in the office of the election authority, each political party, candidate, qualified organization of citizens, State nonpartisan civic organizations, or organized proponents or opponents of ballot propositions shall be entitled to have one pollwatcher for each panel of election judges.
Pollwatchers shall be permitted to observe all proceedings and view all reasonably requested records relating to the conduct of the election, provided the secrecy of the ballot is not impinged.
Pollwatchers may be appointed to observe early voting by personal appearance at each polling place where early voting is conducted.