A Guide to Election Observer Policies in the United States

The Carter Center and the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) partnered to examine election observation in the U.S. and the main regulations that shape observer access. In this 50-state statutory research, we look at the relevant laws and practices for multiple types of election observers.

This booklet answers the following questions:

  • Who can observe elections in the U.S., including partisan, nonpartisan, and international observers?
  • What is the process for accrediting observers? Who ultimately decides whether observers are permitted in a state or county?
  • Which aspects of an election can observers watch? Does this vary based on the type of observer?
  • What role do federal observers play?
  • Have states had past experiences with election observers (case studies)?

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