Concerned with possible disruptions at Ulster County polling sites by supporters of one presidential candidate or another, county board of election co-chairs Vic Work and Tom Turco said they will be asking local police and the sheriff’s office to be ready to respond should there be trouble on Election Day.
Newt Gingrich and other Donald Trump advisors are asking supporters to go to polling places and question anyone they might believe does not have the right to vote.
“We won’t be having any of that here,” says Work, the Democratic co-chair.
Each party, and each candidate is permitted to have a poll watcher at each polling place. “But that person cannot interfere with someone voting, they cannot wear anything that can be construed as an election item such as a hat, button, or shirt,” said Work. “They have to sit there quietly.”
If they want to question something or someone, they go to the chair of the polling site, and express their concern. “The chair will then make a decision of the validity of the claim or call Work or Turco,” Work said. “They have to sit there and keep their mouth shut, no glaring or saying anything. We want them to be seen but not heard.”
Turco, Work’s Republican counterpart, said Ulster County has been lucky in that he can’t remember any big problems. Nor does he anticipate any this year. “We have 800 poll workers in Ulster County, and they each go through a three-hour training program so they know the system, and know how it works to prevent problems,” Turco said.
Poll watchers can play an important role for their party, Turco said. Should they see that not many of their fellow party members are out voting, they can ask their regional office to start making calls to get out the vote.
However, poll watchers are limited as to where they can go in the polling place, Turco said. They have a seat next to the registration table. If they believe they see something irregular, they can resolve the matter with the chairperson of the polling place. “But if they get up and move around they better be leaving the poll site, because problems from them will not be tolerated,” Turco added. It doesn’t matter which party it is. “Knock on wood, the election system works, and works well in Ulster County,” he said.
Poll workers will have the county board of elections and the local police on speed dial.
No electioneering is permitted within 100 feet of a polling place, Work said. “No one can sit at the polls reading a newspaper with a candidate’s picture or name on the front. No brochures can be passed out within those 100 feet,” he added.
Because this year’s presidential election on November 8 is expected to draw record numbers of voters, the county board will be adding additional poll workers at busier sites such as in Kingston, New Paltz, Ellenville and Saugerties. Poll workers go to a class prior to each election. That training begins next week. Workers will be reminded of election procedures, the workings of voting machines, and what to do if there is trouble, Work said.
Work urged people not to delay voting until the end of the day, when polling places will be the most crowded.
Voters should also be aware that there are only two occasions where they might be asked to show identification to vote, according to Work.
The first is if the voter did not properly fill out a voter registration form, and did not respond with “our request for additional information in the letter we would have sent them.” In the voting book that poll workers use, there will be a stamped note next to that person’s name saying they must show ID.
The second instance would be if a poll watcher wants to challenge a voter. Then that voter would be asked to show ID by the poll chair and not by the poll watcher, Work said.
There are 163 election districts and 79 polling places in Ulster County. The county board of elections sends out a yellow card to all registered voters telling them their district and polling place prior to the election.