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Fact check: Philadelphia poll watchers were bipartisan, list of banned watchers does not prove fraud

Social media users have been sharing a photograph of a list of names on a piece of paper, all followed by the word “Republican” in brackets. The posts claim the paper is evidence that Republicans were not allowed to watch over polls in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and that listing the names of banned watchers is “illegal”. The Philadelphia City Commissioners confirmed that both Republican and Democrat poll watchers were allowed into the city’s stations, and that lists of banned individuals are not illegal but normal when individuals have been disqualified or expelled from watching over the process.

Reuters Fact Check. REUTERS

Examples of posts making the claim can be seen here and here .

The photograph was posted in a tweet by Mike Roman, President Trump’s director of election day operations ( here ) on Nov. 10 and had been retweeted over 15,600 times by the time this article was published.  It does not give a source, location nor date on which the picture was taken and says, “Shocking photo from Philly Election Canvass - a list of Republican Poll Watchers on a “NO ENTRY” list!!”

The description on one post reads: “Republican poll watchers were put on a NO ENTRY list in Philadelphia?? That’s....against the law.”

Reuters could not confirm the authenticity of the list shown in the photograph. The implication that only Democrat poll watchers were allowed in Philadelphia, however, is false, as is the claim that the list’s existence is illegal.

Kevin Feeley, spokesman for the Philadelphia City Commissioners, told Reuters via email that eligible poll watchers from both the Republican and Democratic parties were allowed into election sites.

He also said that there is, as of Nov. 11, a list of less than a dozen people who have been barred from entry to election sites in the city. He did not say from which parties they were.

Feeley explained that there are two reasons that could lead to a ban. The poll watcher was either “credentialed improperly and are not actually eligible to serve” or they repeatedly violated rules banning photography or video recording.

Votes PA, an official Pennsylvania government website providing voting information, explains the requirements to be a poll watcher here .

According to the website, a poll watcher must be a registered voter in the county in which they will be appointed, be identified, receive official credentials and be assigned to specific precincts. The poll watcher must show their certificate from the County Board of Elections.

An example of the certificate can be seen on page 11 of a Pennsylvania election board training document from 2018 here . The certificate identifies which party the poll watcher represents.

A poll watcher is prohibited from taking various actions such as engaging, interfering, influencing or intimidating voters. More information about this can be found here . The document also explains that poll watchers without face coverings will be asked to leave.

The document providing guidance for poll watchers here explains that “voter intimidation and threatening conduct are illegal under federal and Pennsylvania law”. The document lists examples of voter intimidation, which include photographing or videotaping voters and disseminating false or misleading election information to voters.

Feeley told Reuters there “are signs prominently displayed in the hall that photography in the room is prohibited.”

The guidance for poll watchers goes on to say that while a watcher may not be deterred or interfered with while exercising their privileges as a watcher, the Judge of Elections is obligated to remove a watcher engaging in prohibited activities.

VERDICT

Missing context. Both Republican and Democrat poll watchers were present in Philadelphia. Watchers may be banned if they break rules as outlined by the City Commissioners office. There is no evidence that a list banning poll watchers is illegal.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work  here  .         

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