I am writing during my fourth day as a "poll observer" for the 2022 mid-term elections. I have been working on elections, in one capacity or another, every two years since 2004, and frequently for many years before that. Sometimes that work has been nonpartisan, sometimes party-affiliated. This cycle, I am poll watching for the Democratic Party in Reno, NV.
Despite all the alarming press about the training of aggressive and intimidating poll watchers, I have not seen it (yet) or heard about it (yet) in NV. In fact, the four sites where I have been observing so far have been pretty sleepy. There is a lot of early voting here, but I've seen no lines at polling places. The poll workers are efficient and dedicated. The observers are restrained and pretty invisible, as they should be.
One of my observations from many years of doing this work is that it does not (and should not) make much difference whether you do it for a partisan or non-partisan organization. If you are in a position to help or inform a voter, you do not ask how they are voting.
I have volunteered in a great variety of places—MD, VA, OH, FL, MO, CA, PA, AL, and NV once before now. I have served as a poll worker (the official who checks you in and offers assistance), and a poll watcher (the one who looks around and makes sure nothing untoward is happening). I have done voter registration, GOTV (get out the vote), and staffed the "boiler room," where questions are called in by observers and others who need issues resolved and hope to get votes cast and counted. I have phone banked and texted. The only thing that I have not done is social media.
In view of the multiple ways you can participate, it is always curious to me how many people don't--especially now, when the very legitimacy of elections is constantly called into question. I will continue to post comments on my NV activities through Election Day, but I want to stress that you still have time to act.
Please contact your party, a candidate, or your favorite nonpartisan organization that works on voting rights, and they will put you to work. They need you. And you may make it a habit, as I have.
Estelle H. Rogers
LDAD Board member and retired Voting Rights Attorney