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5 Reasons to Volunteer as a Poll Monitor

May 5, 2022 Guides & Reports

Author

Adria Orr

Adria Orr

Senior Program Coordinator, Voting Rights

Adria Orr

Senior Program Coordinator, Voting Rights

Adria is the Senior Program Coordinator on the Voting Rights and Census team at Advancing Justice – ALC. Her work includes leading our poll monitoring program and providing community education on voting rights-related topics. She previously worked in online fundraising with an interest in mechanisms of democratizing philanthropy, particularly crowdfunding and peer-to-peer fundraising. During graduate school, this interest evolved into a passion for broader structural changes aimed at redistributing power within democratic systems of government.

Raised in the Bay Area as the daughter of immigrants from Hong Kong and Macau, she spent about a decade on the East Coast in Rhode Island, Washington DC, and New York City before returning to her home state. She holds a BA in Development Studies from Brown University and an MPA from NYU Wagner with a specialization in Advocacy and Political Action.

Volunteer poll monitors are the eyes and ears of democracy that witness and report issues at voting locations during early voting and on Election Day.

Every state has different rules. In California, poll monitors can observe what happens at polling places or at the Registrar of Voters office where the ballots are processed and counted. Anyone is allowed to observe the voting process.

Poll workers have difficult jobs, and sometimes miss important steps that make our voting system more accessible, like putting out translated ballots, posting directional signs, or leaving enough space for voters with disabilities to navigate.

That is where our volunteers come in. We run one of the largest poll monitoring programs in Northern California to ensure that all eligible voters are able to cast their ballots, with a special focus on those who need non-English language support. In order to do this important work we rely on volunteers like you.

Here are five reasons you should volunteer as a poll monitor:

  1. Help protect democracy. If you agree that every Californian deserves to have their voice count, you can volunteer four hours of your time to make that happen.
  2. Ensure language access for limited English speakers. Many polling places are required to provide sample translated ballots – yet sometimes this information is not displayed and workers do not know about these requirements. You can help ensure voters have materials in the language they use.
  3. Prevent voter harassment. Unfortunately, voter harassment and intimidation can sometimes occur at a polling site. Observers are trained and equipped with tools to help identify and report these issues.
  4. Remove barriers to voting even if you’re not a U.S. citizen. Volunteer poll watchers don’t need proof of citizenship to observe the voting process. Even if you can’t vote yourself, you can help remove barriers to voting for others by documenting problems you observe on the ground.
  5. Strengthen our communities and meet new people. Volunteering on Election Day can be quite exciting! It feels like you’re in the middle of history and you will meet and talk to many people throughout the day.

As a nonpartisan organization, we work to protect all eligible voters. We have a particular focus on certain historically disenfranchised communities like Asian Americans and immigrants.

In the November 2020 election, our poll monitors found system-wide issues in Alameda County and demanded immediate changes to ensure translated materials were posted. The county stepped in to fix the problems only after we threatened litigation.

This year, we will be doing poll monitoring on June 4th and June 7th in Alameda, Contra Costa, Fresno, Marin, Merced, Napa, Sacramento, San Francisco, San Joaquin, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, Sonoma, Stanislaus, and Yolo Counties.

We need more volunteers – sign up now to join us as a poll monitor this year. You will be trained and equipped with the tools you need to be effective. Volunteer poll monitors will also have access to a legal support hotline that will help in addressing and resolving problems you may encounter.

Poll monitoring is a crucial element of our voting rights work. You will not only help voters in real-time during the election, but their observations will help shape our longer-term work on best practices and elections advocacy. Volunteers play a huge part in continuing to identify barriers to voting as we fight for a stronger democracy together.