Ten of the 400 poll watchers hired by the Republican Party were in Calhoun County, with the greatest concentration of them, 9, stationed in Anniston, party officials said.
“We are probably taking unprecedented steps this time,” said Shana Kluck, communication’s director for the Alabama Republican Party. “We’re doing more this year that we’ve ever done before.”
Calhoun County Republican Chairman Gene Howard said poll watchers were primarily assigned to polling places that typically collect a lot of votes for Democrats. The poll watchers were located at Hobson City Town Hall, the Anniston Meeting Center, Jacksonville’s West Side Baptist Church, and several other locations, Howard said.
The party dispatched an attorney, a ballot coordinator and poll watchers, who worked as a team with local party chairmen and women.
“It’s just important that we have transparency,” Kluck said.
The state’s Democratic Party did not disperse poll workers throughout the state. Instead the decision to dispatch poll watchers is made on the local level by county chairmen and woman, said Jim Spearmen, vice chairman of county affairs for the Alabama Democratic Party.
“I like to think that people are honest and their vote is a sacred right, basically,” Spearman said. “It’s just intimidation is all it is. It doesn’t serve a purpose.”
Spearman’s party uses poll watchers, too, however. He said state Democrats only use them in case there is some sort of confusion or discrepancy at a polling place.
Howard said the GOP’s poll watchers are not there to influence voters but to ensure the process is smooth and to help with any disputes over voter identification laws.
“The Democrats say it’s voter suppression and it isn’t,” Howard said.
Local Democratic chairwoman Shelia Gilbert said she did not deploy any poll watchers locally. Gilbert added that she is working with other organizations, like New South Alliance, which she said deployed some people at the polling places in Anniston.
New South, which says it encourages voters to go to the polls, distributed sample ballots at area polling places. New South did not, however, distribute any poll watchers, said Andrew Abdulhaqq, the Calhoun County chapter president.
Staff writer Laura Johnson: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LJohnson_Star.