Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton — who, with his fellow Texas Republicans, has tried continually to suppress voter turnout among groups the GOP thinks will vote against them — on Monday issued an opinion warning election officials that “poll watchers” have certain rights and that if an election official tries to interfere with those rights, that official can face Class A misdemeanor charges, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $4,000 fine.
Election officials cannot block official poll watchers from observing and inspecting voting equipment or the interaction between voters and poll workers. Poll watchers also may accompany election officials as they deliver records to vote counters.
But as the Austin American-Stateman points out, those poll watchers have some very strict rules governing what they CAN’T do, too:
“State law also forbids poll watchers from speaking to voters.
“To serve, poll watchers must be assigned to a specific precinct and must present a certificate signed by the campaign or party official who appointed them. No more than two watchers can represent each political party or candidate at a polling site, and observers can serve only in the county in which they are registered to vote.
“The Texas Secretary of State’s office also warns poll watchers that they must stay silent on issues of voter identification.
“Under an order by a federal judge, Texans who do not have a government-issued photo ID can show other documents Tuesday — such as a bank statement or utility bill — if they fill out and sign a declaration indicating why they couldn’t acquire a government ID, such as a lack of transportation, disability or theft. Poll watchers and election workers cannot question the truthfulness of the declaration, the agency said.”
Paxton’s opinion came in response to a request filed back in September by Llano County D.A. Wiley McAfee, and amid expectations that there will certainly be “poll watchers” at some polling places following Donald Trump’s repeated claims that the election is rigged and urging his followers to “monitor” polling places to guard against voter fraud. Many non-Trumpettes, of course, understand that the Widespread Voter Fraud Boogeyman is about as real as aliens and Bigfoot, and believe that a more likely scenario is that alt-right white supremacist Trumpettes are going to show up to try and intimidate certain voters into not casting their ballots.
With all the accusations flying back and forth, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced Monday that the U.S. Department of Justice will be deploying more than 500 people to 67 different jurisdictions in 28 states today to monitor polls during the general election, CBS News reports. Those 67 jurisdictions include Dallas County, Harris County and Waller County in Texas.