Poll watchers are strictly governed in Kentucky; here’s how

Guest Columnist
Beth Salamon


Beth Salamon

(Editor’s note: This is the last in a three-part series by NCJW, Louisville Section, about voting in the November election.)

Here we are, just days away from Election Day, and Kentuckians are benefitting from what the Courier-Journal describes as the most expansive early voting period in Kentucky’s history. So, if you haven’t yet voted, what are you waiting for? Go Vote!
This year, more than in years past, there has been fear of voter intimidation at the polls. In the first presidential debate, President Trump stated, “I’m urging my supporters to go into the polls and watch very carefully, because that’s what has to happen.” Later that night, the president took to Twitter, asking supporters to volunteer to be a “Trump election poll watcher.”
Fortunately, what President Trump tweeted is illegal in Kentucky. Under state law, each political party may select up to two representatives per precinct to act as “challengers” (or poll watchers). However, strict rules dictate how these citizen challengers are selected. The head of each local party must submit the names of the two challengers to the county clerk at least 20 days before the election. Also, challengers must be registered voters in the county where they will serve and must carry written documentation of their status as challengers, signed by their local party chair.
Kentuckians should also know that the law here allows these challengers to question the eligibility of voters only if they have reason to believe: a) the voters are not registered in that precinct; b) they do not live in that district; c) they are felons who haven’t had their voting rights restored; or d) people are not who they say they are. Furthermore, challengers cannot intimidate or harass a voter or challenge one directly; instead, they must report any challenge to an election officer.
Challengers are also prohibited from electioneering or campaigning on behalf of any candidate, issue or political party. They may not disrupt activities at the polling place, nor may they attempt to interfere with the proper conduct of the election.
In fact, Kentucky law prohibits electioneering by anyone, including the general public, within 100 feet of a polling place and for presence in the voting room, except to vote.
NCJW, Louisville Section, supports the right of every eligible voter to a hassle-free, nondiscriminatory voting process. Time is running out. Now that you know your rights as a voter, grab your photo ID and get to the nearest polling place. If you need more information about polling place hours, visit GoVoteKY.com.

(Beth Salamon is the state policy advocate of NCJW-Louisville and the chair of the Jewish Community Relations Council.)

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