Tensions rise between voters and poll watchers in mid-term election


by Brad Woodard / 11 News


Posted on October 28, 2010 at 6:59 PM

Updated Thursday, Oct 28 at 7:00 PM

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas—The Harris County Attorney’s Office says it has received several formal complaints involving poll watchers, people appointed to observe the election process on behalf of a candidate or political party.

"If you look at where we’re receiving the complaints, they’re primarily minority early voting sites, and part of the issue is that the poll watchers are not of the same race," said Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan. "To some people that can be intimidating."

Assistant Harris County Attorney Rock Owens says the problem is with voter proximity.

"Most of the complaints have been about the conduct of poll watchers getting too close to voters," said Owens.

The 59 formal complaints prompted the district attorney’s office to issue a bulletin urging polling stations to use tape to mark off just how close a poll watcher can get when a voter has asked for assistance.

A conservative group called the King Street Patriots said it sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice asking to monitor the process, claiming it’s the poll watchers themselves who are being harassed.

"This is not the way it’s supposed to be," said poll watcher Francine Fiesel. "We should have a free and fair election, where no one is afraid to go into the polls."

As for the U.S. Justice Department, County Attorney Ryan said his office has been working with it all along.

"We anticipate the Justice Department will send some people for Election Day," said Ryan.