Beaufort News

Do candidates know if you've voted? Yes they do

Hilton Head Island resident Philip Porter wondered who was watching him when he received a call from Rep. Joe Wilson's campaign on Election Day stating records indicated he had not yet voted.

Porter got the voicemail after he cast his ballot, but it was time-stamped before he had left for the polls.

"It sounded real Big Brother-ish," he said.

As it turns out, poll watchers -- appointed by parties or campaigns -- play an integral role on Election Day, according to Scott Marshall, executive director of the Beaufort County Board of Voter Registration and Elections.

And yes, they know if you voted, and when.

Poll workers are obligated to show voter rolls to the watchers during elections, Marshall said, adding it is common practice for the watchers to take note of those who haven't voted yet and try to get them into to a polling place.

Election workers won't allow the watchers to leaf through the books if it slows the voting process, Marshall said.

"We had a very busy day Tuesday at some polling locations, so it was difficult to find a time to let the poll watcher leaf through your book," he said. "But that is something they have the right to do."

As it turns out, though, Wilson's campaign call to Porter likely wasn't the result of a watcher's keen eye, according to communications director Brian DeRoy. He said volunteers made those calls and read from a script based on registered voter rolls compiled before the polls opened at 7 a.m. on Nov. 2 -- meaning none of the people on the list had gotten the chance to vote.

"It was really just a call to get people's attention," DeRoy said. "Our goal was just to get out the greatest number of people we could and, as evidenced by our 10-point win, we did."

Volunteers made tens of thousands of calls on Wilson's behalf from headquarters in West Columbia and in Bluffton. But the campaign's records on voters were not updated throughout the day, DeRoy said.

Although Porter felt the call was "kind of strange," he credits the Wilson campaign for its savvy in keeping up with the rolls. He has never received a campaign message which claimed to know whether he had voted or not before.

"Those guys are on the ball," he said. "I voted, but thanks for the call."