Electronic access replacing some local poll watchers

Posted: Apr. 6, 2013 3:00 pm Updated: Apr. 21, 2013 12:15 am

Herald-Whig Senior Writer

Poll watchers will have the option of getting access to local electronic poll book information, for a fee, during Tuesday's election.

Adams County Clerk Georgia Volm said poll watchers are not being banned from polling places, but in seven of Quincy's polling places, the information they would usually gather can be obtained for a charge of $50.

"If someone is credentialed as a poll watcher, they can do their thing at a polling place," Volm said.

"We're just offering a new service that other counties in the state already offer and we're trying to recover some money to cover future expenses."

Poll watchers have been used by political parties for decades. They go to a polling place and observe who comes in to cast a ballot. Lists can then be picked up by another member of the party and used to identify individuals who have not yet voted and might be expected to support the party's candidates. Party supporters can then call those who have not voted and offer to drive them to a polling place.

Volm said many of the election judges do not like having poll watchers at the voting sites.

"They can kind of clog things up if they're talking to the election judges or to the voters," Volm said.

Some of the state's largest counties have started offering access to the live electronic poll books that reveal who has voted. In those counties the number of poll watchers has dropped dramatically.

Volm had told election judges about her plans to offer the service at some point. One of the judges contacted her recently and asked if the technology is available yet.

"We have that capability at seven polling places in Quincy. That will involve a little over half of our precincts in the city," Volm said.

She has offered to send email reports of voting at those seven sites to any interested parties at 1, 3 and 5 p.m. on election day. The cost is $50 and the recipients have to agree not to send poll watchers to the relevant sites.

"I've already heard from Republicans who want this service. I haven't heard from the Democrats yet," Volm said.

Cook County is offering a similar electronic poll watching service this week. Volm said a few other counties have already offered it.

"We're different because we're charging for the information. I feel that any time we can collect something to offset ongoing government expenses, that's good," Volm said.