|To:||County Clerks and Election Administrators|
|From:||Ann McGeehan, Director of Elections|
|Date:||October 29, 2010|
|RE:||Poll watchers and cell phones|
Increased questions have arisen this election cycle concerning the use by poll watchers of “smart phones” or similar devices, such as iPhones and Blackberry devices, which can serve as a phone and as a device that can capture images and sound, as those devices have proliferated. In the past, we have written that state law specifically prohibits the use of such devices in any polling location, citing Texas Election Code Section 33.051(c). That section provides that “a watcher may not be accepted for service if the watcher has possession of any mechanical or electronic means of recording images or sound” and that a presiding judge may inquire of a poll watcher before accepting the watcher for service if the watcher “has possession of any prohibited recording device” before accepting the watcher. We have recommended that all presiding election judges remind all poll watchers and other voters (see Section 61.014) that the use of cell phones for recording or photographic purposes in the polling place is specifically prohibited by law.
To clarify our position, under Section 33.051(c), it is the opinion of this office that a poll watcher presenting herself for service to a presiding judge does not have the means to record images or sound and does not possess a prohibited device if the poll watcher’s “smart phone” or similar device is fully powered down and remains powered down while in a polling place or, if powered on, any recording capability is otherwise electronically or physically eliminated, such as by means of black tape placed over a camera lens or microphone