OMAHA, Neb (KMTV) — Behind every election are thousands of volunteers who work the polls to make sure every vote is counted.
Behind those workers is another small, but growing, group of volunteers.
“With all the claims of fraudulent practices and concerns about it all. I didn’t believe any of it so I wanted to become a poll watcher and see for myself,” said Timothy Hayes, who is volunteering for his first year as a poll watcher.
Hayes is volunteering to be a poll watcher for this year’s midterm elections.
Poll watchers have a pretty simple job, if they see a problem at the polls, they report it to election authorities.
“If they see things they maybe don’t understand or have concerns about, then they are instructed to call either their local election office or the secretary of state’s office,” said Douglas County Election Commissioner Brian Kruse.
There wasn’t much attention paid to poll watchers before 2020 but baseless claims of election fraud put a new spotlight on the volunteer position.
Poll workers can be and often are, partisan volunteers representing a political party and have disrupted polling places in battleground states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Arizona by demanding more access to the vote-counting process.
“Poll watchers can impede the process. They have to allow the poll workers and the voters to do their jobs properly,” said Kruse.
With midterms quickly approaching the calls for more partisan poll watchers have grown as well, even here in Nebraska.
“I think just this last year is when I’ve more about some folks plans to do that, and a volunteer here tonight shared they were aware of it also,” said Heather Endgdahl with Civic Nebraska.
For the last 10 years Civic Nebraska has been training groups of election observers but in a non-partisan manner.
Some of Civic Nebraska’s volunteers have been watching polls for years but there are newer ones like Hayes who come to the position with concerns not just about election integrity, but the potential for volunteers to take advantage of the position to advance their political agenda.
“Because they seem to be necessary I think they will be very important. You are not going to have just one side claim a bunch of stuff. Or on the other side, only democrats or people who believe in the system saying everything is fine, even when it might not be,” said Hayes.