State Says Tea Party Won’t Be Allowed As Poll Watchers

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(Host) Members of the Vermont Tea Party say they plan to monitor some polling places around Vermont on Election Day.

But the secretary of state’s office says state law doesn’t permit it.

Vermont Tea Party Coordinator Jon Wallace says he’s not expecting poll watchers to be confrontational or interfere with voting.

He says about 30 people attended a training session in Rutland this week and were given a handout with information from the secretary of state’s website.

(Wallace) "We want to be sure that they stay in the bounds of the law. That’s very important. They can’t go there just to rabble rouse. They’re there to insure the honesty and integrity of the process. They can’t go there just to rabble rouse."

(Host) Wallace says poll watchers have been instructed to introduce themselves to the election officer in charge at each polling site, and then to report irregularities to that official.

But Secretary of State Deb Markowitz says state law is very specific about who is allowed as a poll watcher.

(Markowitz) "In Vermont we are actually quite liberal as to whom we allow to watch our elections. But any random member of the public can’t designate themselves a poll watcher and stand behind the voter checklist and make challenges. The law is very specific. Political parties who have candidates running can designate poll watchers. And independent candidates can designate poll watchers."

(Host) Markowitz says town clerks have been alerted to the possibility that Tea Party members will try to become poll watchers next week.

But she says the Tea Party has not qualified as an official party under Vermont law. So they’ll be turned away.

The law permits only representatives of the Democratic, Republican and Progressive parties. Members of designated minor parties will be permitted, as well. Those parties are Libertarian, Liberty Union and Working Families.

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