COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — If you have voted early in person in Georgia, you have probably noticed three or four people sitting inside the polling location.
They are poll watchers. They are partisan, and they are part of the process. In this time of deep political division, you have Democrats and Republicans sitting together inside the polling places.
And in most cases, they are walking away from the process with similar takes.
Poll watchers from both parties are trained to observe the voting process. They are looking for voting irregularities.
But in Muscogee County, some of these partisan election observers have been impressed with what they have seen inside the voting rooms.
And there has been a lot of activity at the three Columbus early voting locations. As of yesterday, more than 26,000 ballots have been cast in Muscogee County. Counting another 5,700 absentee voters, that’s more than a quarter of the active registered voters.
Here’s what Muscogee County Director of Elections and Registrations Nancy Boren had to say about the poll watchers.
“Poll watchers have been around forever. We just have never had many of them,” Boren said. “… So, I have been in this position 27 years. And before 2020, I could probably count on one hand the number of poll watchers we have had at our elections.”
Boren says there are 55 registered Republican poll watchers and 40 Democrats. And these officials are taking their responsibilities seriously — on both sides of the political divide.
Charlie Thornton is a Republican poll watcher and he was stationed at Shirley Winston Recreation Center.
“It’s important to ensure that everybody who comes in here to get a vote gets a vote,” Thornton said. “It is important to see all of the poll workers … everything is running smoothly like this location. I have seen thousands of people come in here and vote since I started this early voting and it’s amazing how quickly they get them in and out.”
Tonza Thomas is a Democratic poll watcher and the chairperson of the Muscogee County Democratic Party.
“The Georgia Democratic Party has trained them on certain things to look for,” Thomas said. “But so far, so good. They are trained. They are dedicated. And they are working very well with their Republican counterparts. And what we want our voters to know is that you got Republican and Democratic poll watchers in there. And we are all trying to do the same thing. Make sure our voters have an excellent voting experience. So far, no provisional ballots.”
Thornton was enthusiastic in his support of what he’s seeing in election workers.
“I have read the poll workers manual and the poll watchers manual. And my job is to observe and make sure everything is going smoothly,” he said. “Now, what I would like to credit is all of the superstars in there who are getting the job done. The poll workers are doing a wonderful job at this location. They are superstars.”
“Again, Muscogee County does a great job,” she said. “Nancy Boren, her staff. And the party officials are just there. Both of us have had our party counterparts trained on what it is to look for, what it is to expect. And we haven’t had any problems so far. So, we have done our jobs.”
For Boren, it’s important to hear what Thornton and Thomas are saying. She says the positive comments are validation.
“It is extremely important to me to hear that,” she said. ‘I can say that all day long. But to have a detached, partisan person to say that about the process is invaluable to both the board and me.”
You got to more full days to early vote in Georgia and Muscogee County. Polls at the City Services Center, Columbus Technical College and Shirley Winston Rec Center are open Thursday and Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.