Civil rights advocates say Texas must improve new training required for poll watchers – Houston Public Media

An election ballot worker stands among voting machines Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, in Houston.

A nonprofit voting rights group says the current training for poll watchers in Texas is not comprehensive enough.

DROs are appointed to observe conduct during an election on behalf of, for example, a candidate or political party. In addition to enhanced protections for poll watchers, the state’s new election law also requires poll watchers to complete training, which is provided online by the Texas Secretary of State’s office.

Emily Eby, lawyer at Texas Civil Rights Project, said the training currently consists of clicking through a slide presentation. She told the Texas Newsroom that it should instead be video training to make sure people get all the information they need.

“There was a part where they were talking about ‘a poll watcher cannot be related to a poll worker in the second degree of consanguinity or affinity,'” Eby said. “Now what does that mean? If you had video training, someone might say, ‘Well, that means you can’t be related by marriage or blood. It’s easy to explain.”

Eby, who completed the Poll Observer Training Programwould also like to include questions at the end.

“I would recommend a real test with teeth — a test you have to pass to be a poll watcher,” Eby added. “It’s not necessarily a tough test, but it should show what you can and can’t do as a pollwatcher in order to protect voters.”

But Keith Ingram, head of elections for the office of the Texas secretary of state, disagrees.

“We don’t think we’re going to make the passing grade necessary to do that,” Ingram told a panel of state lawmakers on Wednesday. “We don’t think it’s our place to stop someone from being a poll watcher.”

Although he called the training “very basic”, Ingram also told members of the House Elections Committee his office received comments that there should be questions along the way, so “people can’t just click through the slides without reading them.”

“We think that’s a good suggestion, and we’ll add a few questions,” Ingram promised lawmakers, who are tasked with reviewing how election results are reported and studying the effectiveness of the new formation of lawmakers. state poll watchers.

According to Office of the Texas Secretary of Statehundreds of Texans have taken the new training so far.

“As regards the training of tellers, I would say that from [Monday]we had 2,865 people start training,” Ingram told lawmakers. “We have 1,914 people who have completed the training and received a certificate.

Be a poll watcher under Senate Bill 1Ingram explained that a person must have this certificate of completion from the Texas Secretary of State’s office showing that they have completed the training, and another showing that they have been nominated by a person or entity to be a poll watcher known as a certificate of nomination.

Meanwhile, Ingram said his office hasn’t really gotten any calls about poll watchers in the elections that have taken place in all 254 Texas counties since the state’s new election law went into effect. effective December 2, 2021.

“It was relatively quiet,” Ingram said. “There was nothing about harassing voters or being too close to voters – nothing like that was reported.”

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