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Despite advocates’ concerns, no reports of problems with Arizona poll watchers

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Barry Buhan, a poll watcher registered with the Republican Party, stands outside a polling place at a west Phoenix school. “I’m just here to make sure everything runs smoothly,” he said.
(Cronkite News Photo by Natasha Khan)

GUADALUPE – After Margarita Cota voted Tuesday in this mostly Latino community, she sat outside a market and talked politics with friends.

She said she barely noticed the half-dozen people – partisan poll watchers, along with federal election monitors – who kept an eye on those casting ballots.

“They’re just sitting there quietly, not doing anything,” said Cota, Guadalupe’s former mayor. “It didn’t bother me.”

Cota, other voters and election workers at several precincts in majority-Latino areas of Phoenix, Tempe and Guadalupe said the presence of poll watchers wasn’t a big deal.

Democrats and left-leaning voter-rights groups had raised concerns that poll watchers mobilized by conservative groups like True the Vote nationally and Verify the Vote in Arizona would lead to voter intimidation and vote-suppression.

But Sam Wercinski, head of the Arizona Advocacy Network, which trained and mobilized hundreds of its own poll watchers in response, said he didn’t hear any reports of problems with poll watchers beyond isolated reports of people being rude.

“It doesn’t seem as bad as we prepared for,” Wercinski said.

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