EXPLAINER: Why poll watcher complaints don't amount to fraud

President Donald Trump's legal allies have launched a flurry of lawsuits arguing that widespread fraud could have been committed because its poll watchers didn't get proper access to the voting process. Most of those lawsuits have been dismissed over lack of evidence of election fraud.

Trump has tried to argue that there is a link between some of the complaints of partisan poll watchers and the results of the election, which was won by Democrat Joe Biden. But there has been no credible information to validate his assertions. In fact, both state and federal officials have praised the 2020 election as safe and secure.


A poll watcher is a partisan appointee who monitors voting or ballot counting to help ensure their party gets a fair shot. They are not supposed to interfere in the electoral process, except to report issues to party officials or polling place authorities, and are typically required to register in advance with the local election office.

Tasked this year with monitoring a record number of mail ballots, poll watchers are designated by a political party or campaign to report any concerns they may have. With a few reports of overly aggressive poll watchers, election officials said they were carefully balancing access with the need to minimize disruptions and social distance concerns over the coronavirus pandemic. In many places, they were ordered to stand 6 feet away.

Monitoring polling places and election offices is allowed in most states, but rules vary and there are certain limits to avoid any harassment or intimidation.


The Trump campaign said from the beginning that Republican poll watchers were being improperly denied access to observe the counting of ballots. Not so, countered election officials in key battleground states, who said rules were being followed and they were committed to transparency.

In Pennsylvania, for example, state election officials said poll watchers were certified in every county. Republican lawyers acknowledged in court that they had observers watching polls and mail-in ballots being processed.

Related: Voting across the USA

In Michigan, a Trump campaign lawsuit included assertions from their observers that poll workers rolled their eyes when viewing votes for Trump, wore masks or clothing supporting the Black Lives Matter movement or appeared to double-count ballots. Other lawsuits claimed poll watchers were temporarily denied access in some locations, but there has been no evidence to back it up. Nor was there evidence of votes being miscounted out of political bias. And most of the litigation alleging this has been dismissed.


No, not according to multiple election officials in key states. The federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency has called the voting and count “the most secure in American history.”

Trump's legal allies have tried to argue that if poll workers weren't on hand, anything could have happened out of their view. But they have not provided any evidence of nefarious activity.