Tea Party Poll Observers Accused Of Intimidation At Early Voting Sites

RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA – Republican poll observers who say they’re trying to root out voter fraud have aggressively approached voters as well as elections officials inside early voting sites, and have questioned established voting law, drawing at least two dozen complaints from voters, Wake County elections officials said.

Election officials and campaign watchdog groups said the observers’ actions could intimidate voters and suppress turnout. State Board of Elections Executive Director Gary Bartlett said he had been informed about the problems in Wake. It is against the law for observers to talk to voters and argue with poll workers.

“They are there to observe, make notes,” Bartlett said. “They’re not supposed to impede the process at all.”

Improper behavior can get an observer removed from a polling place for the election, Bartlett said.

The poll workers, whose names were forwarded to the elections board by the county GOP, have told elections officials they are working for U.S. House District 13 candidate Bill Randall, a Republican Tea Party candidate who is challenging incumbent U.S. Rep. Brad Miller, a Democrat. But Randall said he had not heard about polling place problems and hadn’t told poll observers to challenge voters and officials.

“I don’t even communicate with the poll observers,” he said. “I’m not aware of anyone doing that. I would not condone such action.”

Wake County Board of Elections officials say they’ve had to deal with multiple complaints from voters and polling place staff about observers who hover near as voters go through the process, taking down names and addresses. The general activity is allowed under state law, but observers cannot, for instance, challenge someone’s right to vote without identification, a practice that is legal but has caused controversy.

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