Poll watchers sign up in droves this election cycle

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MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – You may notice a few more faces in your polling place when you go to vote next Tuesday.

Chairmen for political parties in our area said that’s because more volunteer poll watchers have been signing up to keep an eye on the election this year.

Poll watchers have been allowed by law in South Carolina for years, but in past elections party officials said it had been a struggle to even sign up volunteers.  This year, the Republican Party in Horry County said 41 people have come to them to be registered.

Officials said Donald Trump’s warning of a rigged election has upped the conversation and concern.

“It’s a precaution, sometimes you don’t never know, by and large I think the majority of people in our area are very honest and forthright, but sometimes candidates feel more comfortable if there is a poll watcher in certain polling places,” said Robert Rabon, chairman of the republican party in Horry County.

The Democratic Party also has dozens of poll watchers heading out; they plan on having roving watchers to ensure all 122 polling stations are visited on Election Day.

Officials there say rigged polls are less of a concern than the potential for voter suppression.

“I’m concerned about having to present multiple forms of ID to vote, I don’t think that ought to be necessary, we have not found voter fraud to be a factor here in America so why are we trying to make it an issue when there is no issue,” said Bennie Swans, chairman of the democratic party in Horry County.

Polling places allow two watchers per party for every 1,000 registered voters; they must be certified and wear a badge identifying party affiliation.

“It’s not being distrustful of anybody, matter of fact, its just trying to maintain the integrity of the vote,” said Rabon.

Officials with both parties in Horry County said many signing up to be poll watchers are first time volunteers.

“To make sure that everyone’s treated fairly, republicans and democrats alike,” said first time poll watcher Wendy Barush.

Barush is a democratic poll watcher, but fears of a rigged election got her motivated to take action.

“I had no idea we had trouble in our voting places, you see trouble in foreign countries, like oh this election is rigged, but I had no idea that there’s possibly trouble in our elections,” said Barush.

Volunteers like Barush go through a 1 hour training class, they must be a qualified voter in the county they serve and get certified by the precinct.

They are there to observe procedures and not interfere with voters.  They can report instances where they see voting laws being broken to poll managers.

“I hope I don’t see any trouble, but if it’s out there I want to see it and report about it,” said Barush.

Polls open November 8th from 7 a.m until 7 p.m.