Philadelphia Poll Watcher Defense Lawyer
A poll watcher is someone with the legal right to observe election proceedings at a polling place, such as an official voting location or ballot-counting center. By law, each political party or candidate can appoint poll watchers for the purpose of ensuring transparency in the voting process. Only certain qualified individuals may act as poll watchers in Philadelphia.
However, the misinformation and rhetoric surrounding the 2020 election is unprecedented. As a result, good people who may be trying to do what they feel is right may be caught in the crossfire and arrested for violated laws they didn’t even know existed.
If you were arrested for an alleged violation of Pennsylvania’s poll watcher laws, contact Ciccarelli Law Offices for a free consultation. Our defense lawyers can protect your rights.
What Does Pennsylvania Law Say?
A poll watcher is someone screened, approved and appointed to observe election processes from afar. A poll watcher promotes fairness at polling places not necessarily through his or her actions, but presence. Watchers are different from poll workers, who are hired to perform duties such as assisting voters and helping elections run smoothly. In Pennsylvania, the Department of State issued poll watcher guidance on October 28, 2020 to assist watchers in understanding their rights.
According to Pennsylvania Statutes Title 25, Section 2687, each political candidate has the power to appoint two poll watchers for each election district involved in the vote, while each political party may appoint three poll watchers per district. The rules state that a poll watcher must be a registered voter in the county where he or she plans on serving. Each poll watcher may only perform the service in one district.
Lawful poll watchers must receive certificates stating the person’s name and the name of the candidate or party he or she represents from the County Board of Elections. Poll watchers must present these certificates when requested. Only one poll watcher may be present in a polling place at a time. All poll watchers must remain outside of the enclosed voting space. Poll watchers in Pennsylvania must follow all of these laws and others. If you were arrested for an alleged violation of these laws, we can represent you.
Who Is Protected?
There has been some confusion over who may serve as a poll watcher during a general election. The Trump campaign stationed unauthorized poll watchers at polling locations in Philadelphia, only for state police to kick them out. In response, President Trump told voters at the September 29, 2020 presidential debate to watch polling places in Philadelphia carefully, because “bad things happen in Philadelphia.” As a result, other unauthorized poll watchers have shown up at polling locations in the area, only to encounter backlash from local law enforcement.
Pennsylvania’s poll watcher laws protect anyone who lawfully has the right to perform this duty. This includes any random citizen, militia and even police officers acting in an official capacity as poll watchers. While some have expressed concerns about voter intimidation after President Trump announced that he would station police officers in polling places to monitor voting, a police officer is a protected poll watcher by law if he or she has been appointed this position.
Protected parties are safe from arrests for observing polling places as long as they are meeting related state laws while doing so. Before Pennsylvania law will protect you as a poll watcher, however, you must prove that you are a qualified applicant and receive the correct certificate from the County Board of Elections. If you are within your rights to observe election processes as a certified poll watcher, you may be the victim of wrongful arrest after an encounter with law enforcement. You may also have a defense based on a different civil rights argument.
Protect your rights as a Philadelphia poll watcher who has been arrested for an alleged violation of Pennsylvania law. Contact Ciccarelli Law Offices for a free consultation with one of our criminal defense attorneys today.