Who watches the election watchers?

What could possibly go wrong with this?

In 2012, Greg Abbott caused a stir when he issued this warning to international election observers: Don’t set foot inside Texas polling places.

Abbott, then the attorney general, was worried the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe — which routinely dispatches election monitors to the United States and other countries and had met with opponents of Texas’ voter ID law — could interfere with general election voting.

“Our concern is that this isn’t some benign observation but something intended to be far more prying and maybe even an attempt to suppress voter integrity,” he told Reuters at the time. He even threatened to “bring criminal charges if needed.”

But four years and one presidential cycle later, Texas officials are so far silent about a possible fleet of partisan election observers Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is urging to the polls.

“Help Me Stop Crooked Hillary From Rigging This Election!” pleads a volunteer sign-up form on the real estate mogul’s website.

Trump’s campaign — which did not respond to requests for comment for this article — has not released details on its poll-watching strategy, or how it plans to ensure volunteers abide by state and federal laws. Texas law allows candidates and political parties to appoint a limited number of poll watchers as long as they follow a litany of rules. But a robust monitoring effort like the one Trump is calling for is rare in the United States.

“It’s something you’re more likely to find in the developing world,” said Mark Jones, a political science fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute.

“You’re more likely to have people that disrupt the process than actually monitor,” he added.

Do tell. The good news is that the dumpster fire that is the Trump campaign is unlikely to actually execute a program of putting “poll watchers” into place. That’s way too much detail work for them. The bad news is that Trump’s rhetoric about “rigged elections” is likely to spur lone-wolf activism, which has the potential to be awful and even violent. The worse news is that Greg Abbott and Ken Paxton are unlikely to do anything about that. It’s not their concern. I don’t really know what to suggest here.

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4 Responses to Who watches the election watchers?

  1. brad m says:

    Abbott is a jackass:

    “far more prying and maybe even an attempt to suppress voter integrity,” What a bunch of non-specific bullshit.

    I love the way the GOP talking heads can make something innocuous sound so nefarious.

  2. Bill Daniels says:


    Abbott might have been thinking about those Black Panther poll watchers in another state when he said that. I’m assuming the GOP didn’t send those guys out.

  3. Pingback: Getting ready for the new voter ID universe – Off the Kuff

  4. matx says:

    Official poll watchers for any group must be registered and must show their credentials when asked. They are not to interact with the voters in the polling place, only election officials. A limited number of poll watchers from each registered group is allowed in the polling place at any time. All states are different, but these are some very basic ones. Sometimes they must be from the voting precinct or state they are watching. I do foresee many unofficial poll watchers showing up and hanging around polling places they deem to be rife with voter fraud (no matter how rare in person voter fraud has been shown to be), increasing the possibility of voter intimidation. People cannot just show up during an election and expect to be a poll watcher no matter where they reside.

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