GAB Elections Division Administrator Michael Haas says the rules cover a wide variety of behaviors for poll watchers, including how far from registration tables observers must stand and what’s considered disruptive behavior at a polling place. Haas told a legislative panel on Tuesday that their mantra has boiled down to “’leave the voters alone. They are there to vote, not to be harassed.”
Haas says most election observers are respectful and follow the rules, although there have been multiple cases of individuals disrupting polling places during elections. He says those have included inaccurate information being given to voters, along with harassment and intimidation that has driven voters away before they have cast a ballot.
The proposed rules largely reflect existing policies used by the agency under temporary emergency rules since 2008, along with updates from recently enacted legislation that requires poll workers to seat observers within three to eight feet of registration tables.
A hearing on the rules Tuesday did draw some criticism from poll workers in previous elections, who cited concerns about being able to hear voters so they can identify possible illegal voting activity. Haas admitted that it’s a constant problem, but they feel the proposed rules will help prevent inappropriate behavior on both sides.
State lawmakers have to sign off on the package or could require additional changes.