Preparation for pollwatching in NY

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In NY, each County Board of Elections has at least two Commissioners. One is a Republican, one is a Democrat. (A lot of states have the same setup.) To be a Commissioner in NY, a candidate really must be a party insider, since he or she is appointed after a vote by the County Legislature.

Finding a particular Board of Elections in any state may be tricky, since not all states may call them Boards of Elections. One approach is to go to the state's homepage on the Web, and look there as to the word "Elections". In NY, the state board of elections has a website which is very helpful. It has links to the various County Boards of Elections. One can also call the local Board of Elections, and get information.

About monitoring in precincts: NY has what is known as poll watchers. Once again, candidates must be insiders, since the poll watchers are nominated by the chair of the local party. In NY, there can be three watchers at every polling place. The beauty of being a poll watcher is that one can go behind the public line and watch the inspectors.

If one is not a poll watcher, one can stand around in the polling place, but cannot go behind the lines, and can't interrupt the flow of voters. One can challenge a voter, but can't wear a button, hold a sign or "electioneer" - speaking to a voter about voting for a particular candidate. One can hold a sign and electioneer provided one is 200 feet away from the polling place.

After the election results are announced, one can can challenge the results, but that also varies from state to state. In NY, one must be ready to file almost immediately. Additionally, when a candidate turns in his or her petitions (like Lieberman, who is trying to get on the ballot by petition), the petitions can be challenged - but the procedure varies widely from state to state. It is best to find a lawyer who is experienced in the election law of the state, and that person can have papers drafted. A lawyer who is not experienced in election law in that state should not be used. Everything moves very fast, because the courts do not want to hold up elections. There isn't any time for a learning curve. If it is necessary to use a lawyer not experienced in election law, that lawyer needs to educate him- or herself before anything happens. Otherwise, the chance of making a mistake grows, and a mistake in court proceedings creates the risk of having the court proceeding dismissed.

In NY, someone can watch the initial canvass by the Board of Elections (follow board employees as they canvass machines and absentee or military voters). Some counties use antiquated machines with levers and counters, because they are still struggling with HAVA.

The law varies from state to state. To start monitoring elections, read up on the law now, or find a lawyer who is willing to start educating him- or herself now. The Board of Elections usually can answer questions, though the answers are often incorrect.

(information courtesy of a NY dKos member)

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