A Broken Observation

, , , , | Right | May 1, 2019

It is during a US presidential election, and I am in charge of a district polling place. As it’s a large and very emotionally-fraught election, many groups around the state have sent out third-party observers to monitor the activity at polling places. As they are not considered election staff, my authority over them is limited to making them sign in and ensuring they don’t interfere with voters in any way; I have no say over who they are or how many.

I have three observers at my site, and they are all doing exactly what they’re supposed to, which is why I’m shocked when a woman tells me she wants to complain about them.

That is, until I hear her complaint. She’s upset because all of the observers are from one political party and there are none from the other, and wants to know what I’m going to do about it.

As patiently as I can, I explain to her that I have no control over which groups send observers, that it shouldn’t affect the process in any way because observers aren’t allowed to interfere with voters or try to convince them to vote a certain way, that she could try reaching out to the other party to send observers if she’s really concerned, and that I can’t just ask the observers to leave because she’s uncomfortable.

She decides this isn’t sufficient and continues to stand in front of me and declare that it’s “unfair” and “just doesn’t seem right” until I finally tell her point-blank, “Ma’am, the observers are allowed to be here, I don’t choose which groups are represented, and there is nothing more I can do, so I need you to step aside and allow me to help other voters.” She finally walks off, still muttering under her breath about the unfairness of the situation and making me wonder exactly what it was she expected me to do; create observers for the second party out of thin air?

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