What's the purpose of a poll monitor?
On the final day for voters to cast their ballots in the 2016 General Election, a group of volunteers visited polls in Macon to make sure voting was fair for all.
“Sadly, in many states across the country, including here, there have been attempts to limit the right of people to have access to the polls,” said Rabbi Steve Fox, a chief executive with the Central Conference of American Rabbis. “So our purpose … is simply to make sure that anyone who wants to vote can vote.”
Fox was working with the Macon-Bibb branch of the NAACP, which had about 30 monitors at polls all over Macon, branch President Gwenette Westbrooks said.
Fox and a few of his family members sat in lawn chairs behind Bruce Elementary School on Houston Avenue as voters trickled in and out of the polling place.
Fox’s poll monitoring is part of Nitzavim, a nationwide nonpartisan voter participation and protection initiative launched a couple months ago in Raleigh, North Carolina.
“We truly believe in the biblical commandment Nitzavim, that you stand up to be counted, and that all people should be counted,” Fox said. “There have been tremendous amounts of conversation that diminish the rights of many people, whether it’s anti-Muslim, anti-Jewish, racially motivated, against the LGBT community (or) against those people with disabilities. So, I think we live in an era right now where people from different communities might feel intimidated to come to the polls.”
For Deborah Davidson, getting out to the polls “was a must,” she said while being helped into the passenger seat of a green minivan.
“Nothing could keep me from (voting) today, not even a hip replacement,” said Davidson, who voted for democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. “Because of the issues that are set forth. … I’m disabled, there’s a lot of citizens who are disabled. ... I worked all my life, sent my children to school, and I deserve to be treated better than I’m being treated.”
Just after noon, Fox said there hadn’t been any issues at the Bruce Elementary School poll.
However, Westbrooks said “a lot of our issues are coming from the poll watchers at the precincts.”
“In Lake Wildwood, someone came out and was actually standing over (the poll monitors), telling them they couldn’t stay there and they had to leave,” Westbrooks said. “Some of the people that were voting actually had to come out and defend for them … To my understanding, a deputy did say something to (poll workers) that (poll monitors) were not doing anything to anyone.”
Mercer University Center for Collaborative Journalism student Nicholas Wooten contributed to this report.