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Poll Watcher Guidelines

Questions and Answers About Poll Watchers

Tenn. Code Ann. § 2-7-104

Who may appoint poll watchers?

  • Each political party
  • Each candidate in a general or primary election
  • Any citizen’s organization interested in a question on the ballot
  • Any citizen’s organization interested in preserving the purity of elections and in guarding against abuse of the elective franchise

How many poll watchers may be appointed for each polling place?

  • Political parties may appoint two (2) poll watchers.
  • Each candidate may appoint one (1) or more poll watcher. Although multiple poll watchers may be appointed to observe at a given polling place, only one (1) of the poll watchers may be in a polling place at any given time.
  • Each citizen’s organization may appoint two (2) poll watchers, however, the county election commission may require organization to produce evidence that they are entitled to appoint watchers.

How are poll watchers appointed?

  • Appointments must be submitted to the county election commission, and appointments must be written and signed by the person or organization authorized to make the appointment 
  • Appointments may designate the same person to serve in more than one polling location
  • A poll watcher does not have to live in the county where he/she is assigned to poll watch

To what locations may poll watchers be appointed?

Early Voting 

  • County election commission office; and/or
  • Satellite location(s);
  • Nursing home(s);
  • Penal institution(s)

Election Day 

  • Precinct Polling Place
  • Absentee counting board

Post-Election Day

  •  Provisional counting board

When must appointments be made?

Early Voting

  • No later than 12:00 noon two (2) business days before the first day of early voting; or
  • No later than 12:00 noon two (2) business days before the poll watcher will be present at the early voting site

Election Day

  • Appointments must be submitted no later than 12:00 noon two (2) business days before the election

Post-Election Day

  • No later than 12:00 noon two (2) business day before the poll watcher will be present at the provisional 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 
  • County election commission members

What do poll watchers do upon arriving at the polls?

  • Upon arrival at the polling place, a watcher shall display his appointment to the Officer of Elections.
  • The poll watcher shall sign the register of poll watchers.
  • The poll watcher shall wear a badge displaying his or her name and the words “POLL WATCHER.” The County Election Commission will provide the badges (labels) for candidates or campaign committees to give to the poll watchers so the precinct officials know they have been duly appointed.  Poll watchers must wear the badges at all times they are in a polling place.

What may poll watchers do?

  • Watch and inspect performance in and around polling place.
  • Speak to the judges and the officer of elections.
  • Through judges they may challenge voters.
  • During preparation and certification, inspect the poll lists, paper ballots and supplies and the machines. 
  • They may inspect the ballots while being called and counted.
  • They may inspect the counters on the machines to make sure that numbers are entered accurately.
  • During preparation and certification they may inspect the tally sheets.
  • They may present a protest of any aspect of the conduct of the election to the “Officer of Elections,” County Election Commission/Commissioner or Inspector.
  • They may be in anyplace in the polls except in the machine (or where they could see how a voter is marking the ballot)

What may poll watchers NOT do?

  • Interfere with any voter in preparing or casting voter’s ballot.
  • Prevent election official from performing his or her duties. 
  • Inspect signature lists during the election hours. 
  • Observe the giving of assistance to a voter in such a way as to know how the voter votes.
  • Wear campaign material of any kind during the performance of his or her duties.
  • Exit the room of the counting board after the actual counting of ballots begins.
  • Possess electronic devices when they are observing the duties of the absentee or provisional counting board.
  • Speak to the 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 - ABSOLUTELY NO
  • Outside the 100’ boundary, Yes, he or she may engage in campaign activity outside of the campaign free zone.  However, once the poll watcher resumes his or her duties as a poll watcher, he or she must cease the campaign activity.