Gov. DeSantis breaks with President Trump on using law enforcement as poll watchers

Investigations

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — President Donald Trump has recently called for law enforcement inside polling places on Election Day this year to keep elections free and fair. 8 On Your Side is digging into what Floridians can expect in November.

President Trump announced his poll-watching plans in an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity earlier this month.

“We’re going to have everything, we’re going to have sheriffs, we’re going to have law enforcement, we’re going to have – hopefully – U.S. attorneys,” said President Trump.

So should you expect police in the polls and early voting sites in Florida? 8 On Your Side asked Gov. Ron DeSantis during a news conference in Tampa on Thursday.

“Governor, on August 20, the president said he wants to use law enforcement as poll watchers on Election Day. One, do you support this? And two, are you concerned that some voters here in Florida would be intimidated?” investigative reporter Mahsa Saeidi asked.

“So we have the ability to have folks, personnel – not law enforcement – we have state employees that were offered for the primary,” said Gov. DeSantis. “I think that’s done typically by either volunteers or by personnel that are provided.”

“So you don’t support it?” 8 On Your Side asked.

“We don’t have any plans to be using them as poll watchers,” replied DeSantis.

The governor is breaking with the president and sticking to current law. In Florida, poll watchers cannot be law enforcement and/or a candidate.

“I can tell you that the poll watchers in my county will have to have their temperature taken,” Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer said.

There were 377 poll watchers in Hillsborough County during the 2016 election.

According to Florida law, watchers must be registered to vote in the county they’re serving. Each candidate and political party can have one watcher in each polling room or early voting area.

What watchers are allowed to do:

  • Observe procedures
  • Watch the conduct of voters and officials
  • Review the list of people who have voted
  • Challenger a voter at a polling place in writing, delivered to the clerk

What watchers are banned from doing:

  • Interfering with Election Board or orderly conduct of any election
  • Wearing political ads/gear
  • Volunteering to help voters

“Poll watchers…it’s not an adversarial relationship with our poll workers,” said Latimer.

If a voter has an issue and they’re not getting assistance, they can turn to poll watchers. Keep in mind, there are specific procedures watchers will have to follow.

You can find more information about poll watchers on Latimer’s website.

If you have an election tip/concern, email investigator Mahsa Saeidi: MSaeidi@WFLA.com

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April 24 2021 08:00 am

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