Nonprofit seeks poll watchers to assist voters

Hannah Grover

FARMINGTON — The nonpartisan organization Common Cause New Mexico is looking for registered voters to volunteer as poll watchers on Election Day in November.

Weldon Queen, left, gets a sticker from Election Clerk Brandy Jordan after voting in June at the San Juan County Fire Operations Center in Aztec.

The poll watchers answer common questions voters may have, such as where they can vote. This year, the general election will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 8.

Diane Wood, voting rights director for Common Cause New Mexico, said the organization helps the volunteers become certified through the Secretary of State's Office. Poll watchers have to be registered to vote in the county where they will be serving as a poll watcher. They cannot be closely related to a candidate and cannot be a law enforcement officer.

The poll watchers stand at least 100 feet from the polling place. Some have signs that say, "Problems voting?".

The poll watchers can answer questions on a wide variety of topics, including those related to access to the polling place, voter identification, provisional ballots and what kind of assistance is available for voters with disabilities.

One of the more-common questions the poll watchers are asked is what happens if the polls close while voters are still in line. Wood said anyone who is in line at 7 p.m. on Nov. 8 when the polls close will have the chance to vote.

Yvonne Bengfort votes in May at the Farmington Museum at Gateway Park.

"We've never had that problem in San Juan (County)," Wood said.

However, during the last presidential election in 2012, lines in Sandoval County were so long that people were still voting at midnight, she said.

San Juan County Clerk Debbie Holmes said the county has had poll watchers at voting centers before. Holmes said the poll watchers notify her if people have problems voting.

"We're sort of like the extra eyes and ears on the ground for the county clerk," Wood said.

Wood said New Mexico Common Cause has a toll free number — 1-866-687-8683 or 1-888-839-8682 for Spanish speakers — that voters can call during the early voting period, as well as on Election Day.

To volunteer as a poll watcher, contact Wood at

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.