Presidential Debate: Top US election officials fault poll watchers on election day

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The Republican secretary of state of Washington state, Kim Wyman, has faulted President Trump’s call for poll watchers on election day.

While expressing her displeasure about the call, Wyman stated that she is concerned about an influx of politically-motivated poll watchers showing up on election day.

During the Tuesday night’s debate, President Trump urged supporters to become poll watchers and monitor poll sites for potential misconduct on election day.

“Each state has formal rules around observing polling place activity through monitors, and most of those efforts are done through political parties and local efforts by both parties,” noted Wyman.

She added that efforts to ramp up monitors from either party that are beyond the norm could jeopardize how comfortable voters feel going into polling places.

“I get very concerned when we start talking about people ramping up on either side of the aisle and trying to monitor a polling place or have a lot of observers there to make sure things go well outside of those normal rules and regulations, because it can start to amount to voter intimidation,” Wyman said.

“It can make people uncomfortable going into a voting center or a polling place, and we cannot as Americans afford any kind of intimidation,” she added.

Wyman said that such efforts risk making voters feel like elections are not secure or accessible, and that any voters who want to monitor at the polls should go through the official channels of becoming an observer, by contacting their local election offices.

“We can’t go backward in our efforts of enfranchising our voters and making sure that our elections are accessible and secure.

“The last thing that we want is to go back to pre-1965 era of voting where we are potentially suppressing or intimidating voters or keeping them away from exercising their constitutional rights,” she said.

During the event, Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, a Democrat, added that she is concerned that Trump’s ramped-up rhetoric around election security would suppress voter turnout and sow confusion around the safety of voting.

Washington state and Colorado vote almost entirely by mail, and have vote centers rather than traditional polling places. Nonetheless, both election officials said they were concerned about the increasing politicization of poll watching.

“I am very concerned about voter suppression and will say the president, with his words, is suppressing the vote,” Griswold said.

“I got calls last night from people of color worried to go vote, across the nation. The president, with his rhetoric of hate and lies, is suppressing the vote.”

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