Texas AG: It’s a Crime to Block Poll Watchers from Their Job

Voters cast their votes at an early voting center setup for the general election on October 31, 2016 in Miami, Florida
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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton released an opinion the day before Election Day that clarifies it is a Class A misdemeanor for an election administrator or person serving in an official capacity at a poll, to prevent a watcher from completing their lawful duties.

KP-0118 answers the question, among others, “What is the remedy at law if an elections administrator excludes a poll watcher’s access to any of the authorized activities provided in the Texas Election Code?”

District Attorney Wiley B. McAfee, who serves Blanco, Burnet, Llano, and San Saba Counties, requested the opinion. D.A. McAfee’s office is located in Burnet, Texas, 54 miles northwest of Austin. The opinion applies to all counties in the Lone Star State.

The opinion noted that Chapter 33 of the Election Code (“Watchers”) provides for the appointment of watchers “to observe the conduct of an election on behalf of a candidate, a political party, or the proponents or opponents of a measure.”

Chapter 33 also lists the specific individuals who may be appointed watchers.

Section 33.056 provides generally that “a watcher is entitled to observe any activity conducted at the location at which the watcher is serving.”

Those who have been appointed as poll watchers may “‘observe the inspection and securing of [voting system] equipment in the jurisdiction of the authority responsible for distributing election supplies to the polling place at which the watcher is appointed to serve’ and may accompany an election officer delivering election records.”

Section 33.061 of the Election Code states that it is a criminal offense for a person serving in an official capacity at a poll to prevent poll watchers from doing the job they were appointed to do, in fact, it is a Class A misdemeanor.

Moreover, Title 14 of the Election Code, the Office of the Texas Attorney General opines, provides for procedures for an election contest.

Title 14 establishes procedures for an election contest “if the true outcome of the election is in dispute due to an election officer or other person officially involved in the administration of the election: (A) preventing eligible voters from voting; (B) failing to count legal votes; or (C) engaging in other fraud or illegal conduct,” the AG opinion concludes.

Lana Shadwick is a contributing writer and legal analyst for Breitbart Texas. She has served as a prosecutor and associate judge in Texas. Follow her on Twitter @LanaShadwick2.


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