SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Poll watchers will be permitted to observe election activities at polling stations countywide on Nov. 3, though COVID-19 related restrictions will limit the number of people allowed inside polling places.
Social distancing requirements mean only about one to two observers might be rotated in and out of the polling places at any given time this year, Assistant Registrar of Voters Cynthia Paes said Thursday.
The number of polling places in San Diego County has been reduced from 1,548 in March to 235 larger polling places that will be open for four days and are each expected to be staffed by about 15 county employees, Paes said.
The role of poll watchers has garnered increased attention as part of the national discussion on voter fraud and voter intimidation sparked most recently by President Donald Trump's call at Tuesday's presidential debate for his supporters to monitor polling places on Election Day.
Trump, who has frequently raised the specter of voter fraud and publicly expressed doubts over the security of mail-in voting, urged supporters Tuesday to "go into the polls and watch very carefully because that's what has to happen."
Tony Krvaric, chair of the San Diego County Republican Party, said recruiting poll watchers is a typical practice, intended to ensure votes are cast and note any irregularities in the voting process.
"We always recruit for poll watchers and have done so for as long as I can remember," Krvaric told City News Service.
"Poll watchers help make sure Republicans who haven't voted are contacted and reminded to do so and keep an eye out for any irregularities. This is nothing new. Democrats presumably do the same."
Krvaric said any such instances of irregularities are reported to local officials or the Registrar of Voters.
"Any voter irregularities could dilute legitimate votes cast," he said.
Will Rodriguez-Kennedy, chair of the San Diego County Democratic Party, said he was confident in the San Diego County Registrar of Voters' ability to ensure a fair election process, saying there are "a number of processes (conducted) to verify a vote."
Regarding Trump's allegations of voter fraud related to mail-in voting, Rodriguez-Kennedy called Trump's assertions "a falsehood," based largely in myth.
Rodriguez-Kennedy told City News Service "mail ballot voting is safe and secure" and said its presence this election will increase overall voter turnout, something he said represented "a problem for this president."
Of Trump's statements at the debate, he said his "intent is to sow discontent because he fears he is losing."