Watchers keep eyes on polls

Published 12:58 am Wednesday, November 5, 2008

With historic numbers of voters showing up at the polls all over Virginia, poll watchers from both the Republican and Democratic Parties were dispersed to ensure things ran smoothly. Franklin was no exception.

Anthony King, a member of the Franklin Democratic Caucus, says he has volunteered as a poll watcher for “as long as he can remember.” This year was a little different, he said.

“In the past we have just counted the votes, making sure the number of ballots equaled the number of voters,” he said. “This year, we are keeping a more accurate watch than we ever have to see that everything runs smoothly and that everyone’s vote is counted.”

In addition to just counting numbers, poll watchers also look out for any irregularities they suspect by challenging a questionable voter’s ballot. Franklin Republican Party Chair Teresa Prescott said that while her volunteers did not anticipate any problems, they were well-trained on how to handle any situation that may arise.

“We had a meeting on Sunday night to make sure every one of our volunteers was educated about proper protocol,” she said. “We believe everyone should have the right to vote, but we want to make sure that vote is legal.”

Republican volunteer Kenny Truitt of Franklin said the group only challenged one situation they thought may have been questionable, but after investigating the case found nothing wrong.

“Besides the really great election officials that we have in this area, the people showed just how good our folks are,” he said during a telephone interview Tuesday. “While we heard about trouble at the polls in other areas, I found that people here were well-prepared and quite orderly at each precinct I visited.”

King echoed Truitt’s sentiment by saying he hadn’t experienced any problems and did not expect to challenge any voters in the remaining time he was stationed at the polls.

The Democrats were still prepared for trouble. In case any legal questions arose, a lawyer deployed by the Obama campaign was stationed outside at least one voter precinct in Franklin.

Southampton County Registrar Leona Davis reported only a few voters had problems at the polls. Davis said one voter was accidentally marked as having voted before she had the opportunity to vote.

“We investigated the incident and she was eventually able to vote,” she said. “In fact, it seems that all of our voters have had their votes counted.”

In Isle of Wight County, Vicki Lonsdale said they had a big problem with traffic due to the increased number of voters, but there were no issues at the polls.

Truitt said he was really pleased with how things went.

“We only have one day like this every four years,” he said. “It’s extremely hard to prepare for everything that could possibly go wrong, but the election officials in this area have done a wonderful job.”