Fact check: Clarifying video of poll watcher being turned away in Philadelphia

Social media users have been sharing video and photographs of a poll watcher being turned away at a polling station in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. While the man in the video was indeed turned away, the Philadelphia City Commissioners Office told Reuters that the incident was investigated and was an “honest mistake.” This article aims to provide clarification around the widely shared video.

Reuters Fact Check. REUTERS

Some posts called the video an example of “election fraud”, here (archived here ) and here (archived here ). Another video asks, “How can voters be expected to trust in our elections when this happens?” ( here , archived here ).

The video was tweeted by Will Chamberlain, editor-in-chief of conservative publication Human Events, here (archived here ) and retweeted by Mike Roman here (archived here ), Election Day Operation Director for Trump ( here ).

The man can be heard saying he has a “city-wide watcher’s certificate” and the other poll watchers respond that it is not for that location.

Kevin Feeley, a spokesman for the Philadelphia City Commissioners Office, confirmed to Reuters via phone that the man in the video was indeed a certified poll watcher but confusion over laws about watchers and locations by the Judge of Elections led to “an honest mistake.”

Feeley confirmed “a correction was made” and the man was admitted as a poll watcher at another location.

Jane Roh, Communications Director for the Pennsylvania District Attorney’s Office, told Reuters via email: “Poll watchers can be in any location if certified. That is a fairly recent change in the law, and our investigation of that video determined that the workers were likely confused about that.”

The Pennsylvania Department of State shared a document on guidance for poll watchers and authorized representatives on Oct. 28, 2020, here .

In an email shared with media representatives, Roh said that as of 4 p.m. EST of Nov. 3, 47 of the 52 incidents reported to the Election Task Force (ETF) “have been resolved peacefully by our prosecutors and detectives.” Noting that “misinformation being spread online has driven more calls to the ETF hotline than actual incidents at polling sites,” she encouraged members of the public to share information from trusted or official sources.

ProPublica reported on the incident here . PolitiFact addressed the confusion here .


Missing context. The poll watcher was turned away, but it was due to a confusion around poll watchers and their assigned locations, not voter fraud, as some posts claim. The man was admitted as a poll watcher at another location.

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