"Election observer" is not defined in the California Elections Code. However, the right to observe is embedded in the California Voter Bill of Rights. In relevant part, the California Bill of Rights states that "You have the right to ask questions about election procedures and observe the election process." Elec. Code § 2300(a)(9)(A).
In practice, California elections officials do not limit the right to observe to voters. Rather, any member of the public may observe, regardless of voter status, political party preference, or other status. We encourage all members of the public to observe and ask us questions about how elections work.
With every right afforded to the public, there are also responsibilities. The rules of election observation are limited to observing the process and asking questions. No one may perform elections tasks without permission from the elections official or interfere with elections process.
Election Observer Panel Plan
Ahead of every election, elections officials must submit an Election Observer Panel Plan (EOPP) to the Secretary of State. The purpose of the EOPP is to:
- Provide the public with the opportunity to observe and make suggestions on ways to improve the election process.
- Help ensure the integrity of the election process.
- Remove some of the mystery associated with the election process in an effort to build voter confidence and encourage more voter and public participation.
Starting 60 days, and not later than 30 days, before an election, elections officials must reach out to various groups inviting them or their representatives to observe elections activities. Letters must be sent to:
- County Grand Jury
- Political Party Central Committee Members
- Advocacy Groups
- League of Women Voters
Other groups or individuals expressing an interest in observing Election Day activities may also be included in the observer panel.
You may observe the elections process regardless of whether you were formally invited to be part of the EOPP. Everyone is welcome!
Ahead of every election, the Secretary of State publishes guidelines for election observers and elections official that clearly articulate the rights and responsibilities of each. Nevada County Elections then updates its brochure to reflect the most current laws and regulations governing election observation.
See our most recent Observer Guidelines brochure for more information https://www.nevadacountyca.gov/DocumentCenter/View/39771/Election-Observer-Brochure_FINAL.
See the proposed changes to the Observer Guidelines at the Secretary of State's website: https://www.sos.ca.gov/administration/regulations/proposed-regulations.
Our office provided public training for observers ahead of the November 8, 2022 General Election. The information in the presentation is specific to that election. However, it should provide the public with a good idea of election observer rights and responsibilities for future elections. Please feel free to view a copy of that presentation: https://www.nevadacountyca.gov/DocumentCenter/View/47298/Observer-Presentation.