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Worried about voter fraud? Be a poll watcher

Posted at 4:15 PM, Aug 12, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-12 16:16:25-04

INDIANAPOLIS -- More than any national election in recent memory, the question of voter fraud has been thrust into the spotlight in the race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Trump, even before he was the Republican nominee, has repeatedly railed against what he calls the "rigged system." And he hasn't shied away from suggesting November's general election could be tampered with as well.

"I'm telling you, November 8, we'd better be careful, because that election is going to be rigged," Trump told Fox News host Sean Hannity. "And I hope the Republicans are watching closely or it's going to be taken away from us."

Clinton hasn't made similar assertions – although she has faced harsh criticism, along with the Democratic National Convention, after an email leak appeared to show the DNC favored Clinton over her rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders.

READ MORE | Watch delegates react to those leaked DNC emails | Trump taunts claims that Russia hacked DNC emails for him | 3 resign from DNC as email fallout continues | DNC offers official apology to Bernie Sanders for email scandal

While actual cases of voter fraud in the U.S. are vanishingly small – the Washington Post, for example, found just 31 cases in more than a billion ballots cast between 2000 and 2014 – Trump's rhetoric has resonated with voters who feel unrepresented, or misrepresented, by the political class in Washington.

Apparently looking to capitalize on this, the Trump campaign is now encouraging supporters to sign up to be election observers, using the call-to-action, "Help me stop 'Crooked Hillary' from rigging this election!"

Indiana statute does not allow non-partisan citizen observers, international non-partisan observers or academic observers to monitor elections – but does allow for partisan citizen observers, commonly called poll watchers.

Here's the National Conference of State Legislatures' official definition for partisan citizen observers:

Partisan citizen observers: Usually referred to as poll watchers or challengers, these observers represent political parties, candidates, or groups in favor of or against a ballot proposition. Partisan citizen observers generally guard against activity that could undermine their own party or group’s interests. These observers are permitted by statute in most U.S. states.

As of Friday, the Clinton campaign's website did not appear to have a specific section dedicated to signing up poll observers. However, Indiana Election Division Co-Director Brad King said anyone interested can contact the party chair of their county.

"Indiana law restricts who can be present in a polling place, so you need to get credentialed as a watcher, or there are some other positions a party can appoint, and the way you can do that is to contact the county major party chair," King said.

Each precinct is allowed one poll watcher from each party with ballot access (in Indiana, that’s the Republicans, Democrats and Libertarians), and those watchers must be a registered voter of the county the precinct is in.

King noted that the actual poll workers themselves are also nominated by their respective parties, so poll watchers just serve as another set of eyes for the parties.