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Poll Watcher Guidelines

Who may appoint poll watchers?

  • Each political party – political party means an organization which nominates candidates for public office
  • Each candidate in a general or primary election
  • Any citizens’ organization interested in a question on the ballot
  • Any citizens’ organization interested in the integrity of the election process

How many poll watchers may be appointed?

  • Political parties may appoint two (2) poll watchers
  • Each candidate may appoint one (1) or more poll watchers. Although multiple poll watchers may be appointed to observe at a given polling place, only one (1) appointed poll watcher may be on duty in a polling place at any given time.
  • Each citizens’ organization may appoint two (2) poll watchers; however, the Davidson County Election Commission (DCEC) may require the organization to produce evidence that they are entitled to appoint watchers.

How are poll watchers appointed?

  • A list of appointees must be submitted to the Davidson County Election Commission in writing and be signed by the person or organization authorized to make the appointment.
  • The same person may be appointed to serve in more than one polling location.
  • A poll watcher must be age seventeen (17) or older by Election Day.
  • A poll watcher does not have to live in Davidson County, but must be a resident of Tennessee.

To what locations may poll watchers be appointed?

Early Voting

  • Davidson County Election Commission offices; and/or
  • Satellite location(s);
  • Nursing home(s);
  • Penal institution(s)

Election Day

  • Precinct polling locations
  • Absentee Counting Board

Who may not be appointed as a poll watcher?

  • Anyone who will be or who is a candidate for an office on the ballot
  • The spouse of a candidate
  • Davidson County Election Commission members

When must appointments be submitted to the Davidson County Election Commission?

Early Voting

  • No later than 12 noon two (2) business days before the first day of Early Voting; or
  • No later than 12 noon two (2) business days before the poll watcher will be present at the early voting site

Election Day

  • No later than 12 noon two (2) business days before the election

How must appointments be submitted to the Davidson County Election Commission?

Submit appointments in one of the following ways:

  • Scan signed list and email to: joan.nixon@nashville.gov
  • Fax signed list to 615-862-8810
  • Mail signed list (per deadlines above) to:
    Joan Nixon
    P.O. Box 650
    Nashville, TN 37202-0650
  • Hand-deliver signed list to one of the following locations:
    • Davidson County Election Commission Main Office
      1417 Murfreesboro Pike
      Nashville, TN 37217
    • Davidson County Election Commission Satellite Office (Temporarily Closed)
      800 2nd Avenue South
      Nashville, TN 37210

What must poll watchers do upon arriving at the polls?

  • Display his/her appointment to the Officer of Elections
  • Sign the poll watcher register
  • Wear a badge displaying his/her name, the appointing organization’s name and the words “POLL WATCHER.” The Davidson County Election Commission will provide badges for candidates or organizations to give to their poll watchers, so all Poll Officials know they have been duly appointed. Poll watchers must wear the badges at all times they are in a polling place.

What activities are permitted?

  • Watch and inspect performance in and around the polling place
  • Speak to the judges and the Officer of Elections
  • Challenge voters, through the judges
  • During preparation and certification, inspect tally sheets, poll lists, paper ballots, supplies, machines
  • Inspect all ballots while being called and counted
  • Inspect counters on the machines to verify numbers are entered accurately
  • Present a protest of any aspect of the conduct of the election to the Officer of Elections, Davidson County Election Commission or inspector
  • Be present during all proceedings at the polling place  

What activities are prohibited?

  • Interfere with any voter in preparing or casting their ballot
  • Prevent election officials from performing their duties
  • Inspect signature lists during election hours
  • Observe the giving of assistance to a voter
  • Wear campaign material of any kind during the performance of their duties
  • Exit the room of the Absentee Counting Board after the actual counting of ballots begins
  • Possess or use electronic devices when observing the duties of the Absentee Counting Board
  • Speak to voters. This includes greeting the voter or standing in the doorway where the voter enters.

May poll watchers engage in campaign activities?

  • In the polling place – no campaign activity is permitted
  • Outside the 100 foot boundary/campaign-free zone – yes, after removing the poll watcher badge or credentials. Once the poll watcher resumes his/her duties as a poll watcher, all campaign activity must cease.