Poll monitors are people interested in election proceedings and they are entitled to observe polling place operations during voting hours, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Observers can watch the setup and the breakdown of polling places. However, poll monitors may not disrupt the election process or interfere with a voter's right to cast a secret ballot. Poll monitors often represent candidates, political campaigns and/or organizations.
For more information about poll monitoring, electioneering and media at the polls, read A Guide for Poll Watchers.
Guidelines for Polling Place Observation
- Observers may watch any part of the Election Day process beginning with set-up prior to the polls opening at 7 a.m., and up until closing and packing-up election ballots and supplies at 8 p.m. Observers must check in with the polling place inspector. (E.C. § 14221).
- Your function is to observe procedures. Touching or handling any ballots or election materials is prohibited.
- An observer’s actions may not interfere with the processing of voters or cause voters to feel intimidated. If your actions are preserved to be intimidating to voters or obstructive to the voting process you will be asked to leave. (E.C. § 18370, 18540, 18541)
Observers may not challenge any voter inside or within 100 feet of the polling place. (E.C. § 14240)
- Questions concerning procedures should be directed to the inspector in charge. Observers should notify the inspector when leaving for breaks and for the evening.
- If you believe established procedures are not being followed, report to the inspector and use the Observer Reporting Log to record the nature of the incident including precinct number, group number, time of the incident and any other details related to the problem.
- The Street Index placed at the entrance of the polling place is updated once per hour until 6 PM. This is posted for review by observers and other members of the public. The Street Indexes kept on the official table are for use by pollworkers only.
- Electioneering is not permitted within 100 feet of a polling place. Electioneering is defined by the California Election Code Section 319.5 as “the visible display or audible dissemination of information that advocates for or against any candidate or measure on the ballot within 100 feet of a polling place, an elections official’s office, or a satellite location.”
In addition, “no person, on Election Day, shall, within 100 feet of a polling place… Solicit a vote or speak to a voter on the subject of marking his ballot.” California Elections Code Section 18370 defines “100 feet of the polling place” as meaning a “distance of 100 feet from the room or rooms in which voters are signing the roster and casting ballots.”
This includes, but is not limited to: Display of candidate’s name and logo, display of a ballot measure number or title, buttons, shirts, signs, stickers, and the dissemination of audible electioneering information. The “No Electioneering” signs will be posted to notify observers of the 100 foot mark.
- Observers may not:
Ballot security and safeguarding critical election materials is a primary concern. If pollworkers perceive an observer to be in violation, he or she will be asked to leave.
- Handle voting materials, equipment, or sit at the official table.
- Wear the uniform of a peace officer, private security guard, or security personnel.
- Use electronic devices to transmit voter and ballot information.
- Use cell phones to conduct personal conversations. Communicating with elections official’s office via cell phone is allowed. Polling places are to be kept as quiet as possible.
- Touch election personnel without permission.
- Eat or drink inside the polling place.
- Interrupt or interfere with pollworkers while they are in the process of interacting with voters or processing ballots.
- Assist with polling place operation.
To learn about observation at the Tally Center Headquarters in Norwalk, refer to the Election Observer Panel Plan under Upcoming Elections