Poll watchers scout for precinct problems

Published On: Nov 02 2012 03:20:56 PM EDT   Updated On: Nov 02 2012 04:18:17 PM EDT

John Spates is a poll watcher for the Democratic Party, and he's been keeping an eye on an early voting site on the Northside at Gateway Mall.

"I'm looking to see if voters are turned away from the polls, and if they are, then I am empowered to find out why," Spates said.

He said the biggest problem he's seen is with ex-convicts who want to vote but can't. Other than that, he said things have been smooth.

On Tuesday, many more people will be out watching the polls. The Duval County Supervisor of Elections Office has issued 958 poll watcher credentials. Each party and each candidate is allowed one poll watcher inside each precinct.

Janet Wylie, an organizer for the Republican watchers, said more than 600 Republican volunteers and lawyers in Jacksonville will be watching to make sure IDs are checked and proper procedures are being followed. She said they'll also look for voter intimidation.

"The problem is usually in the parking lot, keeping people from parking, keeping people from getting out of their cars, keeping people from getting into the building," Wylie said. "So it's a voter intimidation problem out in the parking lot, usually."

The American Civil Liberties Union plans to have poll watchers outside precincts because it is not affiliated with a party and can't be inside.

"What we are going to be looking for specifically is people who walk out disgruntled who have said, 'We have been turned away,'" said Natishia Stevens, of the ACLU. "OK, we want to find out why you have been turned away. What can we do to help you vote and protect your right to vote, and see what we can work through on Election Day."


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