March 3, 2015

Elections agency bans poll observers from using cameras

The state Government Accountability Board has voted to continue banning the use of cameras in polling places by election observers.

State lawmakers had asked that the board allow the use of cameras, unless it would disrupt the voting process. State Elections Administrator Mike Haas says board members were concerned that would be the case, so they voted Monday on rules that keep a long-standing ban in place.

Haas says the board heard testimony indicating that “some voters might feel harassed, or intimidate, by potentially having a bunch of cameras trained on voters and/or election inspectors.” Another concern was that cameras could create privacy issues because of a new rule that allows election observers to be as close as three feet from where voters sign in. He says that could actually allow an observer to see much closer than they normally could from the required distance, which could invade the privacy of voters.

Also at issue is the short time frame before the August partisan primary and the general election in November. Haas says it could be difficult to train over 1,800 municipal clerks on how to deal with observers who bring out cameras, who would then also have to train thousands of poll workers across the state.

Lawmakers could revisit the rule at a later date, although it’s unlikely they could order a change before next month’s primary or the general election.