Election officials at major battlegrounds pushed back Trump campaign claims that Republican poll watchers were being unfairly forbidden to follow the counting of votes on Thursday, stating that following the rules And they are committed to transparency.
Worked this year with monitoring record numbers of mail ballots, partisan poll watchers have been nominated by a political party or campaign to report any concerns. With some reports from over-aggressive polling watchers, election officials said they were carefully balancing access with the need to reduce blockages.
“Certainly every absentee counting board across our state had a lot of eye on the process,” said Michigan Secretary of State Jolly Benson, a Democrat and the state’s top election official. “We are proud of how transparent and safe our process has been. I know that the truth is in our favor. “
Pole watchers have been a central element of legal battles in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Nevada. The count was largely eliminated in Michigan, with work continuing into Pennsylvania and Nevada on Thursday, where a narrow margin separated President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden.
Surveillance of polling places and election offices is allowed in most states, but the rules are different and have some limitations to avoid any harassment or intimidation. The monitor is not allowed to interfere in the conduct of elections and is usually required to register in advance with the local elections office.
In Nevada’s most populous county, officials said polling watchers were allowed in designated areas, were told they comply with social distinctions and mask requirements and were required to participate by county representatives is.
“When they sign in, they have to agree to follow the rules as directed by law. If they don’t follow the rules … they’ll be removed from the venue, “Joe Gloria, Chief Election Officer in Clark County, which includes Las Vegas.
The Trump campaign sought to stop the counting of mail ballots in the county, saying observers were being put away to see if the signatures matched voter registration records.
Adam Lakdal, co-chairman of Trump’s campaign in Nevada, said, “The issues with which the election has been touted, we are now more concerned with the lack of transparency in seeing and challenging potentially illegal ballots.” “
That lawsuit was settled Thursday afternoon when election officials agreed to provide additional access to a ballot processing facility in Las Vegas.
In Pennsylvania, pole watchers’ controversies were largely focused on in Philadelphia, where the Trump campaign complained that their supervisors might not get close enough to see if eligible voters in ballot envelopes in the mail Signatures were with names and addresses.
Ballots can be challenged or disqualified without this information, but city officials said state election law only allows voters to inspect the work and audit it.
Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Bokover openly defended the process.
“In Pennsylvania, every candidate and every political party is allowed to have an authorized representative in the room,” Bokovar said in an interview to CNN. “Some courts, including Philly, are also liverstreaming, so you can literally see their counting process from anywhere in the world. It is very transparent. ”
On Thursday, a state judge ordered Philadelphia officials to allow party and candidate observers to get closer to election workers processing mail-in ballots. A spokeswoman for the Philadelphia Board of Elections said the barriers were removed in response to the order while the city appealed.
Later, a federal court in Philadelphia denied a Trump campaign bid to block the number of votes on access issues, urging both sides to come to an agreement. US District Judge Paul S. Diamond suggested that each party be allowed 60 observers inside the convention center where ballot papers were being tallied.
Voting advocates noted restrictions applicable to both Republican and Democratic poll watchers.
Common Pennsylvania interim director Suzanne Almeida said, “Pennsylvania has specific rules, where poll watchers can stand and what they can do”. “It applies equally to both sides. Everyone has equal access. It is not about harming one party over the other. “
The number of poll watchers in an election office varies. Some smaller offices may allow only a few inside, while larger ones may have dozens.
In addition, a Michigan judge on Thursday dismissed the Trump campaign’s lawsuit over whether enough Republican poll watchers had access to deal with absentee ballots.
The majority of the dispute focused on Detroit, where absentee ballots were counted at a convention center in the city. According to City Clerk Janice Winfrey, some 134 counting boards were established, and each party was allowed to monitor one poll per board.
He said he did not know of any Republican poll watchers, but some said they were “very aggressive, trying to intimidate poll activists and processors.”
Ray Wert, who volunteered as a Democratic poll watcher on the site, said he found a group of Republican supporters who were blocking the entrance and saw police officers saying that someone in the crowd Additional people are not allowed inside because there are equal number of party watchers.
“My concerns are that this is being used to explain what is a very clear and very well run process for counting these ballots,” Wert said.
Cassidy reported from Atlanta and Izagirier from Lindenhurst, New York reported. AP journalists around the country contributed.