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Poll Observer vs Poll Watcher

Who is less obtrusive?

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, the answer is “It depends on the state”. I know. That wasn’t the answer any of us wanted. Here’s a mini explanation:

A partisan committee, political party, candidate, or organization can appoint a poll watcher. Their job is to track voter turnout and monitor what’s happening at that polling site. They’re an unobtrusive citizen observer of voters and election inspectors. Their job is to watch and report to officials and authorities. That’s it. They’re also normally registered voters.

A poll challenger can challenge a voter’s eligibility and the election process. The rules for a challenger are similar to that of a poll watcher. Typically they have to be registered to vote in the state where they’re challenging, have a challenger credential for that specific election by a credentialing organization. They can not be an election inspector or be running for office during that election. They, like poll watchers, must undergo training.

Legalese/State Code


According to M.C.L.A. 168.733; M.C.L.A. 168.730, “Anyone who wishes to observe the election process (and who is not a qualified election challenger) may serve as a poll watcher. A challenger must be a registered voter in the state, not a candidate or election inspector and must carry an identification card. A political party, organization or organized entity of interested citizens may designate no more than two challengers per precinct at any one time.”

SOS Guidance

Learn more

Poll Watchers and Challengers

The table below lists state-by-state laws regarding poll watcher qualifications. Typically political parties, candidates, and ballot issue committees can appoint poll watchers. Most states don’t allow candidates to be poll watchers. See what each state requires.

Michigan Poll Challenger Information

One page checklist covering rights and duties of a challenger.

Michigan Poll Watcher and Election Challenger Guide

Appointment, rights and duties of poll watchers and election challengers

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