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Guidelines for Variety election issues and observing at the Polls

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Link provided for informational purposes only

Links provided for informational purposes, not an endorsement of the organization (in fact the USA is a republic, not a democracy, we have a democratic process of elections, that's more accurate)

Again not an endorsement.  Site provides contact numbers for Pennsylvania election offices.

Process application absentee ballot

Informational material
Re: [VotePA] Re: Can a poll watcher for a candidate work in a different county
25 P. S. 2687. Appointment of watchers
(a) Each candidate for nomination or election at any
election shall be entitled to appoint two watchers for
each election district in which such candidate is voted
for. Each political party and each political body which
has nominated candidates in accordance with the
provisions of this act, shall be entitled to appoint
three watchers at any general, municipal or special
election for each election district in which the
candidates of such party or political body are to be
voted for. Such watchers shall serve without expense to
the county.
(b) Each watcher so appointed must be a qualified
registered elector of the county in which the election
district for which the watcher was appointed is located.
Each watcher so appointed shall be authorized to serve
in the election district for which the watcher was
appointed and, when the watcher is not serving in the
election district for which the watcher was appointed,
in any other election district in the county in which
the watcher is a qualified registered elector: Provided,
That only one watcher for each candidate at primaries,
or for each party or political body at general,
municipal or special elections, shall be present in the
polling place at any one time from the time that the
election officers meet prior to the opening of the polls
under section 1208[fn1] until the time that the counting of
votes is complete and the district register and voting
check list is locked and sealed, and all watchers in the
room shall remain outside the enclosed space. It shall
not be a requirement that a watcher be a resident of the
election district for which the watcher is appointed.
After the close of the polls and while the ballots are
being counted or voting machine canvassed, all the
watchers shall be permitted to be in the polling place
outside the enclosed space. Each watcher shall be
provided with a certificate from the county board of
elections, stating his name and the name of the
candidate, party or political body he represents.
Watchers shall be required to show their certificates
when requested to do so. Watchers allowed in the polling
place under the provisions of this act, shall be
permitted to keep a list of voters and shall be entitled
to challenge any person making application to vote and
to require proof of his qualifications, as provided by
this act. During those intervals when voters are not
present in the polling place either voting or waiting to
vote, the judge of elections shall permit watchers, upon
request, to inspect the voting check list and either of
the two numbered lists of voters maintained by the
county board: Provided, That the watcher shall not mark
upon or alter these official election records. The judge
of elections shall supervise or delegate the inspection
of any requested documents.
(c) No candidate or committee of a political party or of
a political body, nor any other person or persons shall
pay to any watcher compensation in excess of one hundred
twenty ($120.00) dollars per diem.
(d) A watcher whose watcher's certificate is destroyed
or lost on election day may appear before the court of
common pleas under section 1206[fn2] and, after swearing
under oath or affirmation that the watcher's certificate
was destroyed or lost, may immediately receive a
replacement watcher's certificate issued by the court.
[fn1] 25 P.S. 3048.
[fn2] 25 P.S. 3046.
1937, June 3, P.L. 1333, art. IV, 417. Amended
1947, June 28, P.L. 1054, 1; 1963, Aug. 1, P.L. 434,
1; 1963, Aug. 14, P.L. 1048, 1; 1980, July 12,
P.L. 649, No. 134, 1, imd. effective; 2002, May 16,
P.L. 310, No. 44, 1, imd. effective; 2004, Oct. 8,
P.L. 807, No. 97, 2.1, imd. effective.

Poll Monitor Rules

Each state has its own rules
about the rights of citizens to monitor election procedures. It is the responsibility of each poll monitor or observer to find out what rules apply in your local area! If you need to obtain credentials prior to be permitted to observe at close range (i.e. within the polling place itself, or anywhere closer than 100 feet away), you must do so in advance of Election Day. There may be deadlines; contact your county official to find out all relevant information. (You can get county election official contact information from this web page:

Name/Model: eSlate 3000
Vendor: Hart InterCivic, Inc.

Detailed Voting Process:
  1. After checking in at the polling place, the voter is given a piece of paper with a four digit, randomly generated Access Code.
  2. The voter takes the piece of paper with the Access Code to any open eSlate booth and enters the number into the eSlate device using the Select Wheel and Enter button.  The voter can proceed to any open eSlate booth. He/she is NOT assigned to any specific voting terminal.
  3. The voter makes his or her selections using the buttons and Select Wheel on the bottom of the eSlate. The Select Wheel allows the voter to navigate through the ballot.
  4. When the voter is finished, he/she presses the red "Cast Ballot" button at the lower left-hand corner of the eSlate to cast his/her ballot.
  5. If the voter has completed the voting process and cast a ballot, the poll worker can print off a piece of paper similar to the Access Code that lists the voter's Access Code number and reads "Assigned and Cast."
REMEMBER: You have the right to ask for assistance from a poll work during the voting process.  If the poll worker is unable to resolve any machine-related problem you might have, do not cast your ballot on the machine.  You can demand to vote on another machine or by paper.
If you have any problem voting, call 1-866-OUR-VOTE for help

General Rules and Guidelines for Observing at Polling Places:

1.      Make no contact with any voter inside the polling place.

2.      Wear no political gear or buttons, nor partisan insignias of any kind. Do not wear candidate buttons, candidate t-shirts or candidate hats. (DO WEAR your TechWatch T-shirt!) Don’t carry or distribute materials which may have partisan or candidate information. Keep to this rule even if credentialed by a party or candidate.

3.      Remember that the election judge or poll worker is in charge, and can decide where you are permitted to sit or stand, and how many observers or poll monitors can be in the location at a time. They also may decide whether you can be permitted to come and go, or switch off with another poll monitor.

Observing the Polls

Prepare in advance for observing at the polls:

1.      Find out what type of equipment will be used by going to this web page:

2.      Familiarize yourself with the method of operation of the equipment. See the “Full Information Sheet” for the voting technology you will encounter, included later in this guide.
Finally, transportation of equipment and voting materials including memory cards and polling place total tapes should be done by no fewer than two poll workers, ideally from different parties. Local rules may differ: transport may be done by sheriffs or other county personnel. Make note of how ballots and voting materials were transported where you observed. Find out where the materials were taken: to a staging area? To county headquarters? To one of several counting locations? And make a note of the location if possible.


In some cases, poll monitors are only allowed inside the polling place if they have prior permission, in the form of credentials obtained either through a political party, or from a particular candidate, or from the county election official directly. Poll monitors credentialed by a party may be allowed to observe the updated roster of the local precinct’s voters – to see who has come to vote, and who has not yet voted. A candidate’s or party’s worker could then contact voters or work with others to get out the vote for their party or candidate. Some party or candidate poll monitors may seek to challenge voters whom they believe are not eligible to vote in that precinct.

In other cases, any interested person may enter the polling place to observe, provided that they do not disrupt the proceedings in any way nor compromise any voter’s right to privacy. It is usually up to the chief poll worker or election judge in the precinct to determine whether a person is being disruptive or not, so observers should exercise good judgment and seek to be cooperative at all times, so as not to risk being removed from the premises and forgoing your opportunity to observe.

Once you have your credentials or have confirmed that none are required, you will need to decide where you will observe. Don’t forget: if you intend to serve as a poll monitor in another state, you must research the requirements in that state. For example, California makes no specific credentialing requirement of observers, but Florida does require prior credentials through a legitimate political party or a specific candidate on the ballot. In some states, for example Colorado, you are not permitted to serve as a poll watcher if you are not a registered voter in the specific county where you will observe. You cannot observe in another county. 

Poll Opening

Observe the following procedures at the opening of the polls:

Machine Set Up:
Electronic voting machines are positioned (with enough distance between them and at such an angle as to allow privacy), set up (on built in stands or separate booths, with privacy shields), plugged in to an electrical outlet, and started up prior to the opening of the polling place. This can take hours or minutes, depending on the type of equipment used. For example, the ES&S iVotronic used in Miami-Dade County, Florida, has been known to take several hours to get up and running ready for use; for this reason it is usually set up and started the night before voting begins. Other machines may take as little as 10 minutes each to set up and start. Find out for your area, so that you can observe at the correct time!


Zero Tape: Before voting can begin, each machine MUST produce a “zero tape.” This means the poll-worker starts the machine, issues a series of commands to start the election, including asking the machine to print a totals tape showing that zero votes have been cast on the machine at the start of the election. Confirm that a zero tape was produced from each machine in use. If the machine could not produce a zero tape (example: it failed to remain “on” and would shut off while printing was underway), IT SHOULD NOT BE USED FOR VOTING. The machine should be taken out of service.

The zero tape is usually retained within the printer bay of the machine itself until the end of the day’s voting, when the tally of all votes cast on that machine during the day will be printed further on the same tape. If it is not retained within the machine’s printer bay, or if it is removed, observe what is done with the tape, and ask to view the serial number and printout of the zero tape. 

(Note: we know of at least two counties where printing zero tapes are not be part of the official procedure (Riverside Co., CA) or where voting machines currently do not have printers and thus cannot print zero tapes (Santa Clara Co., CA). Challenging these known limitations on Election Day could be problematic and don't get yourself kicked out of your venue.  Please note counties where this is not done and call this into the +1 866 OUR-VOTE hotline.)

Serial Numbers:
Log the serial number of each voting machine as it is opened and prepared for the election. Compare this number at the end of the day to the serial numbers on the top of every report for the polling location.

Seals and Bays:
Each machine has a drive bay for a memory unit; some machines have additional bays which may house wireless communications capability or other modem devices. Some states prohibit the use of wireless communication devices; most “best practices” reject the practice of allowing wireless communication capabilities. Ask if you can see inside the second bay door.

If you are permitted to observe at close range as the machines are set up at the start of the voting day, you should observe tamper-proof seals or tamper-tape covering the bay doors and locks prior to the machine being set up for the day. If NO tamper-proof seal was covering the bay door/s, or if it appeared the seal was broken or compromised prior to the setup of the machine, please make note of it. You may ask the poll worker or election official setting up the equipment if there is a policy in place regarding the seal(s). If a machine’s seal was compromised, the equipment should not be used (even if it prints a zero tape).

Guidelines for Observing at the Polls

Other Setup

Many voting systems require the use of a voter card, sometimes called a smart card, which is provided to the voter after s/he signs in at the poll register. This card should be programmed before each use. The voter card programmer device must be set up, plugged in and booted up to the proper program before the polling place can open. This device programs the card so that the proper precinct and ballot type is presented on the voting machine when the voter inserts the card. Problems with voter card programmers (sometimes called precinct control centers or precinct control modules) have been known to delay poll-opening by hours, when the device fails to boot up to the proper screen, thus disenfranchising many voters who are unable to wait to vote. Observe that it is functioning as expected, and make note if it does not.

Some jurisdictions now use “electronic pollbooks” – please make note whether your polling place has a hard copy pollbook (list of registered voters for that precinct), or whether an electronic listing on a computer device is used. If the electronic pollbook is used, it must either contain all the data for that polling place or be connected to a central computer via an internet connection, for example. This is another peripheral device which, if it malfunctions or doesn’t function the way it is expected to, can severely delay poll operations and disenfranchise voters. Please make note if there are any problems with the function of the electronic pollbook.

After Polls Open

Once voting begins, be alert to problems that may occur during the day.

Problems with voter card programmer?
Do you hear any complaints from voters about not being able to find all the candidates they expect to see on their ballot, about a ballot seeming incomplete, or other indications that the card has been programmed incorrectly? (Note that incorrectly programmed voter cards have disenfranchised numbers of voters – particularly when they are voting on local issues and especially when precincts are combined into a “joint” polling place. This is happening with increasing frequency around the country, and is to be anticipated in Florida and other areas where hurricane damage caused election officials to have to regroup. Poll workers and election judges must take extra caution to provide the correct ballot type to the voter.)

Problems with screen calibration?
A common –and very alarming—problem with touchscreen voting machines occurs when calibration is “off” a little bit, which means that a voter will attempt to select a candidate on one part of the screen, and a different area of the screen will light up as selected. If repeated attempts to correct the problem are unsuccessful the machine probably should be taken offline (if there is a sufficient number of functioning machines in the polling place), as voters will find it very difficult to feel confident that their vote was accurately recorded under such circumstances. Calibration problems can occur when machines are jostled or dropped, and may possibly occur even in the process of transporting the equipment to the polling place. Note what happens with the machine in question; note whether voters are directed to different machines if they are available and if the problem machine has not been taken offline.

Problems with power loss?
Most electronic voting machines have some battery power to serve as backup in the case of power loss. However, this may be limited to only two hours or less, depending on whether the machines were fully charged prior to set up. Poll workers should make sure the outlet being used is “live” at the start of the day; often a “battery” indicator will appear on the machine if it is plugged in but not receiving power. If the power goes out in the area for any reason, make note of how long the batteries operate before machines begin to shut off. If power does go out, find out if there is a sufficient supply of paper emergency ballots in case the power does not come back on before machines fail.


Problems with machine function? Lack of familiarity with voting equipment may contribute to problems in use. Such problems can include:
        Accidentally resting a thumb on one side of the screen while selecting with the other hand which can result in the wrong candidate’s name lighting up inadvertently;
        Inadvertently shifting a selector wheel (such as on the eSlate, which does not use a touchscreen) one position further than intended, especially when voting a straight ticket, which can result in selecting a straight ticket of a different party;
        A sleeve brushing a part of the screen can trigger a “selection” even when the voter did not intend it;
        Some machines must be touched once on the screen to cause them to start up and show the ballot so the voter can begin; if the voter does not know this, they may think the machine does not work, or may feel that they somehow do not know how to operate the machine correctly.

None of these are “voter error” but rather the effect of using a complex piece of equipment for voting. This may be the first time the election judges or poll workers are facing this equipment too (other than training they may have received), and so may not be familiar with how to resolve every issue. Note whether poll workers assist the voters, offer guidance in how to use the equipment, etc., or whether they react in an indifferent manner or appear not to know how to resolve the problem.

Problem with machine failure?
What happens when a machine is not functioning properly? Make detailed notes about the problem which causes the machine to be taken offline, and observe carefully what is done with the machine. Were they able to print out a total of the votes cast on the machine before taking it down? Was the memory card left in the machine or removed? Were seals attached? Note the machine’s serial number and whether any ballots were cast on the machine prior to its failure. Also, note whether the machine was replaced or not. If it was replaced, the new equipment should have undergone the IDENTICAL set-up procedures including printing a zero tape. Make note if any technical assistant was present and whether he or she worked for the county or was employed by a voting machine vendor.
Voter Card Reprogramming: Should happen each time the card is used. If election workers are not reprogramming the cards for every use, please make note of it. If it is feasible to ask the chief election judge or other poll worker about policy on the matter, do so, but only if your question is not going to be perceived as hostile or disruptive.


Other issues to watch for:

        Do election judges keep a running tally and check the tally on a regular basis through the day to make sure the number of votes on the machines is consistent with the number of voters who came through the doors that day?

        Are accessibility devices (e.g. headset, keypad) for use with the voting machines set up in the morning and do they function properly?

Poll Closing

Once voting has finished for the day, poll workers must follow several procedures to complete the process and close the polls. Try to observe as closely as you are permitted as the poll worker goes through each step.

Note if there is a running tally of ballots cast on the face of the touchscreen or other voting machine (some show a number on the screen). Make a note of this tally in order to compare it with the tally tape and precinct totals, if at all possible.

Each machine’s vote totals should be printed as part of the election closing procedures, so 
that no more votes may be cast on the machine. The supervisor will usually insert a supervisor’s card (like a voter card, but with additional privileges) and select “close election” and go through the steps to produce the tally. This tally usually is printed on the same tape as the morning’s “zero tape.” The poll worker may print out several copies.
Then the memory card containing the voted ballots is removed from the port, and in some cases the poll worker may re-seal the port doors. Note whether seals are used.

The poll workers may have a procedure guide to follow; here are links to procedures for closing the polls for each of several types of electronic voting systems. See the Voting Technology Manuals section of the web page at .
Typically, election officials will inventory all the equipment including the number of voter cards, supervisor cards, and the memory cards from each machine, etc.
Some procedures include the use of an “accumulator” machine: one voting machine is designated to accept vote totals from ALL the machines (including its own vote totals) to run an accumulated total. (On some machines, this may be done via wireless transfer of vote totals from one machine to another: make note if this is the case as it indicates the presence of wireless communication capabilities.)

Usually, the memory card from each voting machine is inserted into the accumulator machine and the results uploaded for accumulation. After all totals have been added to the one machine, a printout should be run of the accumulated total. This accumulated printout may be what is posted at the polling place.

If a modem transfer of results is to be used, the modem connection will then be made from the accumulator machine (usually via a phone line) to the jurisdiction’s central election headquarters.

Alternately, if no accumulation is done in the polling place by machine, poll workers will note the totals from each machine’s printout onto a card or form for that purpose, will make note of the number of provisional ballots cast and/or absentee ballots received (but not the votes from these—votes from the paper ballots will be counted at the central facility in most cases).

The machines are turned off and closed up. Some machines are held closed with zip-ties and possibly small seals, which may be numbered. Others may be packed into cases.
Memory cards are then bundled together with one copy of the tally tape from the machine the card pertained to, and all are packaged to be transferred to the central headquarters along with voting equipment.

Many states’ election laws prescribe the manner in which the polls are to be closed, including in some cases requiring that a printed copy of the total results from that polling place be posted in a prominent location for the public to view.

        Do election judges or poll workers print polling place totals at the polling place before connecting any electronic communications out of the polling place?

        Is a copy of printed polling place totals posted for public review at the polling place at the end of the day? It must be outside, on the door or wall so that the public may view the totals and log them to compare later with reported precinct totals.
Make note of the final vote totals from the polling place. Compare them with the running tally you logged at the end of the day from the machines themselves, and note any discrepancy.

Hart Intercivic eslate Polling Place Operations Training manual
Boulder Chart display

3/7/06  Tony Phyrillas

While most Republicans figured out long ago that "Emperor Rendell Has No Clothes," the left is enamored by Rendell, who sought, signed and defended the July 7, 2005, pay raise. Rendell’s back-room dealing with the GOP leadership in the Legislature also gave us the worst gambling bill in the country and the notorious Act 72, which is no way to fund public education.

Rendell’s fingerprints are all over a succession of bad legislation and tax hikes. But too many of his fellow Democrats and the state's liberal newspapers (the two worst are based in Philadelphia) have given Rendell a free pass on their editorial pages. They banner stories about Lynn Swann not voting in primary elections, but overlook Rendell’s selling out Pennsylvania to casino interests or funneling of hundreds of millions of tax dollars to Philadelphia at the expense of the rest of the state.

In order for substantial changes to be made in Pennsylvania government this year, the turnout for the May 16 primary election must set a record. That won't happen if Libertarians, Green Party members, Constitution Party members and independents sit out the primary, which is what they will be doing if they don't switch their registration to Republican or Democrat. Primary elections are designed for political parties to settle on their candidates for the November general election. That means only registered Democrats and Republicans get to vote.

It's the Libertarians, the Greens, the Constitution Party and the independent voters who can have the final say in how much movement there is in Pennsylvania's status quo government. But change won't happen if third-party voters sit out the May 16 primary.

At least for one day, third-party or independent voters must register as Democrats or Republicans to make their votes count. The last day to register before the primary is April 17.

Tony Phyrillas is a columnist for The Mercury in Pottstown. E-mail him at



Best way to fight is to switch

For some of you, this will be bitter medicine.

But if you're serious about ousting the legislators who came down on the wrong side of last summer's illegal instant pay raise, here's what some of you will have to do:

Change your voter registration.

Before I explain why, let's review the list of legislators who either voted for the raise and/or accepted the illegal instant money. I enjoy running it every so often.


Since I last ran that list, Conti has joined Rooney among those who have decided not to seek re-election. I hope more join them.

But in the meantime, we have a problem. Thanks to massive gerrymandering, most incumbents are in election districts populated largely by people in their own party. This makes it tough to defeat them in a general election, because so many voters would have to cross party lines.

For that reason, the incumbents are most vulnerable in the primary election.

So if you're serious about cleaning house — and I would go beyond that list to include any legislator who isn't actively trying to reform the mess in Harrisburg — you may have to change your registration.

I'm doing it. The incumbent in my district is a payjacking do-nothing who belongs to a different party than I do. I was delighted to get official word the other day that he'll face a challenge in the primary election this spring. So I'm going to change my registration. I'm trying to convince the rest of my family to do the same thing.

Don't worry. If you're really a Republican, for example, you still get to vote for Republicans in the general election, if you choose. For that matter, you can change your registration back after the primary...,0,4326746.column?coll=all-randomcolumnistsnews-misc


What was done in 2004 to save Arlen from defeat by toomey...
Big Labor Tries to Throw GOP Election in Pennsylvania
Wes Vernon,
Friday, March 26, 2004
WASHINGTON – A labor union wants its Democrat members to raid Pennsylvania's Republican primary and save an endangered RINO.

Robert S. Scardelleti, president of Transportation Communications International Union, sent registration cards to thousands of TCIU members in the Keystone State urging they switch to the GOP in time to rescue Sen. Arlen Specter, Republican in name only, from a humiliating defeat

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