1652 – In Rhode Island, a law was passed that made slavery illegal in North America. It was the first law of its kind.

Map of Rhode Island.

Slavery in the United States wasn’t abolished at the federal level until after the Civil War, but on this day in history, May 18, 1652, the first anti-slavery statute in the U.S. colonies was passed in what’s now the state of Rhode Island.

The statute only applied to white and black people, but in 1676, the enslavement of Native Americans was also prohibited in the state.) While it sounds like Rhode Island was ahead of its time — and, in some ways, it was — what actually happened was complicated.

Though Rhode Island’s Quaker population was starting to question slavery and the relatively young colony was looking for ways to differentiate itself from neighboring Massachusetts, the statute was very limited. For one thing, the law, which only applied to Providence and Warwick, banned lifetime ownership of slaves. For periods of 10 years or less, it was still permitted to essentially own another person, as an indentured servent. And it’s not as if, 10 years after the statute was passed, people let their slaves go.

for the complete article …

Resource: time.com


Mount St. Helens: The eruption killed 57 people and caused millions of dollars in damages.

Mount St. Helens steams. Photo by Charlie Crisafulli.Mt. St. Helens Streaming Video

Forty years after the mountain’s eruption, officials struggle to balance research and risk.

by Eric Wagner

The Pumice Plain in southwest Washington’s Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument is one of the most closely studied patches of land in the world. Named for the type of volcanic rock that dominates it, it formed during the mountain’s 1980 eruption. Since then, ecologists have scrutinized it, surveying birds, mammals and plants, and in general cataloging the return of life to this unique and fragile landscape.

Now, the depth of that attention is threatened, but not due to the stirrings of the most active volcano in the Pacific Northwest. The problem is a large lake two miles north of the mountain: Spirit Lake. Or, more specifically, the Spirit Lake tunnel, an artificial outlet built out of necessity and completed in 1985.

After nearly four decades, the tunnel is in need of an upgrade. At issue is the road the Forest Service plans to build across the Pumice Plain despite the scientific plots dotting the plain’s expanse. In this, Spirit Lake and its tunnel have become the de facto headwaters of a struggle over how best to manage research and risk on a mountain famous for its destructive capabilities.

THE ENTANGLEMENT OF THE LAND, the lake and the tunnel began 40 years ago, when Mount St. Helens erupted on May 18, 1980. At 8:32 a.m., a strong earthquake caused the mountain’s summit and north flank to collapse in one of the largest landslides in recorded history. Some of the debris slammed into Spirit Lake, but most of it rumbled 14 miles down the North Fork Toutle River Valley. Huge mudflows rushed down the Toutle and Cowlitz rivers, destroying hundreds of bridges, homes and buildings. 

The eruption killed 57 people and caused millions of dollars in damages. Mount St. Helens shed more than 1,300 feet of elevation, hundreds of square miles of forest were buried or flattened, and Spirit Lake was left a steaming black broth full of logs, dead animals, pumice and ash. Its surface area nearly doubled to about 2,200 acres, and its sole outlet, to the North Fork Toutle River, was buried under up to 600 feet of debris.

Having no outlet, and with rain and snowmelt still flowing in, Spirit Lake began to rise. The situation was dangerous: If the basin filled, the lake could overtop the debris field and radically destabilize it, unleashing another devastating mudflow that would send millions of tons of sediment toward the towns of Toutle, Castle Rock and Longview, Washington

For the complete article …


images: fs.fed.us/outernet/pnw/mtsthelens

Poll Watcher Qualifications … republican style

Poll Watcher Qualifications By State

Ala. Code §17-8-7

Must be a registered voter (resident and qualified elector), one per party per polling place. Prohibits election officials, including returning officials, from serving as poll watchers.

AS §15.10.170

Must be a U.S. citizen; one or more watchers may be present per party, ballot committee, candidate, etc. No more than one watcher on duty at a time.

A.R.S. §16-590

The county party chairman may appoint one person per precinct; the parties must agree on the total number of people allowed per polling place. If they cannot agree, the rule is one person per party per polling place at a given time.

A.C.A. §7-5-312

Requires a “poll watcher authorization form” to be filed with the county clerk; “Only one authorized poll watcher per candidate, group, or party at any one given time may be officially recognized as a poll watcher at each location within a polling site where voters identify themselves to election officials” Allows candidates to be poll watchers with some form of identification.

C.R.S. §1-7-106 and §1-7-108

Must be eligible electors; prohibits candidates or family members of candidates; one per party per polling place.



F.S. §101.131

A “qualified and registered elector” in the county in which he/she will serve; one per party and one per candidate, cannot be candidate or law enforcement officer. Must wear a badge identifying them by name.

Ga. Code Ann. §21-2-408

Prohibits candidates from serving as poll watchers; two per precinct in the general election and one per precinct per candidate in the primary election. Must wear a badge saying “Official Poll Watcher.”

HRS §11-77 and §11-72 (b)(3)

Names must be submitted to local election officials 10 days prior to the election; one per party. Must be registered voters. Prohibits parents, spouses, siblings, children or the candidates themselves. Also prohibits candidates from the primary who failed to receive a nomination from being a poll watcher in the general election.



10 ILCS 5/17-23

Registered to vote in the state; must be affiliated with the political party or organization that appoints him or her; the parties and candidates can each appoint two per precinct; organizations that are concerned with the election and nonpartisan civic organizations can appoint one per precinct provided they register with the elections authority 40 days before the election; there can be no more than two people from nonpartisan civic organizations at a polling place at a given time.

I.C.A. §49.104

No more than three at a time per political party. No more than one at a time per nonparty political organizations, candidates nominated by petition, and any other nonpartisan candidate in a school or city election. People with an interest in a ballot issue who file in advance an intent to be an observer. No candidates; no elected officials whose names appear on the ballot; no precinct workers; to challenge a voter, must be a registered voter.

K.S.A. 25-3005a

Must be either a member of a candidate’s family, a registered voter, or at least 14 years of age but satisfy all of the other requirements for being a voter other than age; candidates, precinct committee members, write-in candidates, and issue campaign committees are each limited to one representative per polling place. Must wear badge identifying person as “Observer.”

KRS §117.315

No more than two people appointed by each party per precinct to be submitted to the county clerk in advance of the election; must be a registered voter in the county.

LSA-R.S. 18:427; LSA-R.S. 18:435

Must submit names to the local officials ten days prior to the election; Must be a qualified voter in the state; must not be qualified for assistance; must not be a candidate or a law enforcement officer.

One person per precinct per candidate, but each candidate may designate one person to be a “super watcher” who can be a watcher in any precinct in which the candidate is on the ballot; the list of watchers must be submitted to the county clerk ten days prior to the election.


21-AM.R.S.A. §627

Municipalities must allow at least one person per party to be a poll watcher.

MD Code, Election Law, §10-311

A state or local board of elections, a candidate, political party, or any other group of voters supporting a candidate or issue can appoint an accredited poll challenger or watcher. Must be a registered voter. Election judges may allow non-accredited challengers or watchers to enter the polling place to challenge a person’s vote.
Massachusetts Poll watchers are allowed at polling sites as long as they are not disorderly and do not disrupt voter access to the polls.

M.C.L.A. 168.733; M.C.L.A. 168.730

Registered voter in the state; not a candidate or election inspector; challengers must carry an identification card; a political party, organization, or organized entity of interested citizens may designate no more than two people per precinct at any one time.

M.S.A. §204C.07

One challenger is permitted per each political party per precinct; ballot issue committees must get signatures from 25 voters to be able to appoint one challenger per precinct, and that person must be a registered voter. Must be residents of the state. Prohibits election judges.

Miss. Code Ann. §23-15-571

Poll watchers may be designated by political parties and candidates whose name appears on the ballot in the precinct. Challenges may also be made by candidates, qualified electors, managers, clerks, and poll workers.

V.A.M.S. 116.310

Campaigns can designate one challenger per polling place.

MCA 13-13-120

One poll watcher per party per polling place; can’t be a candidate whose name is on the ballot.



Neb. Rev. St. §32-1013

One observer per party per polling place. No such observer shall be connected with any candidate, political party, or measure on the ballot.

N.R.S. 293.274

Members of the general public may be poll watchers, but this does not include members of the media or people who are observing the polls solely within a professional capacity.
New Hampshire

N.H. Rev. Stat. §666:4

State and municipal party committees can appoint challengers.
New Jersey

N.J.S.A. 19:7-1

County committee chairs for political parties may appoint two challengers per election district.
New Mexico

N.M.S.A. §1-2-21-27

No more than one watcher at a time in a polling location. Must wear identification. Candidates, family members of candidates, and law enforcement officers may not serve. An election related organization or a group of three candidates may appoint poll watchers by providing the Secretary of State’s office with notice at least 10 days prior to the election.
New York

McKinney’s Election Law §8-500

Must be a registered voter in the county or city holding the election; can’t be a candidate in that district; an organization, a party committee, or a group of two or more candidates can appoint poll watchers but none of them can have more than three poll watchers in one location at one time and no more than one poll watcher at a time beyond the guardrail.
North Carolina

N.C.G.S.A. §163-45

County party chairs can designate two observers per polling place and 10 at-large observers who are residents of the county and can observe at any polling place in the county; county party chairs can also appoint a runner to receive voting lists. Observers must be registered voters of the county in which they are appointed and must have “good moral character.” Prohibits candidates from serving as observers or runners.
North Dakota

NDCC, 16.1-05-09

Election observers must wear a badge with the name of the observer and the name of the organization that observer is representing.



R.C. §3505.21

Must be a registered voter in the precinct; can’t be a candidate; can be appointed by a political party or a group of five or more candidates; one person per precinct; can’t be a uniformed peace officer, state patrolman, member of an organized militia or any other person in uniform; can’t be carrying a firearm or deadly weapon.

26 Okl. St. Ann. §7-130

Any candidate or recognized political party is entitled to have a poll watcher; must file with the Secretary of State or County Election Board by 5 p.m. the Wednesday before the election.

O.R.S. §254.482

Observers may watch the county clerk receive and count mail-in ballots if authorized by a candidate, political party, or the county clerk. Only so many watchers allowed as will not interfere with orderly procedure.
25 P.S. §2687
Must be a registered voter in the county; can only be a poll watcher in one district; candidates can appoint two watchers per district and political parties can appoint three watchers per district.


Rhode Island

Gen. Laws §17-19-22

Political parties may appoint “checkers” to see who has voted, “runners” to deliver lists of people who have voted, and “watchers” to challenge the eligibility of voters
South Carolina

S.C. Code §7-13-860

“Must be a qualified voter” in the county where he/she will serve  and certified in writing to the managers of the precinct; two per party per 1,000 registered voters per polling place; poll watchers must also wear a badge indicating the candidate or party they represent.


South Dakota

SDCL §12-15-2.1; SDCL §12-18-8.1


Prohibits precinct superintendents, precinct deputies, candidates, or election board workers from serving as poll watchers; one watcher per polling place per each party, independent candidate, slate of presidential electors and each side of a ballot issue.



T.C.A. §2-7-104

Must be 17 years old by Election Day, and appointed by the party in writing; each candidate can have one and each party or citizens’ organization can have two. The state also prohibits spouses of candidates from serving.

V.T.C.A., Election Code §33.031

Poll watchers can be acting on behalf of a candidate, political party, or opponent or proponent of a ballot measure; must be from the jurisdiction; can’t be a felon, candidate, public official or related within the second degree of consanguinity to an election judge/clerk at the site; maximum of seven per early voting site and two per Election Day voting site.

U.C.A. §20A-3-201

Designated by the parties or persons interested in a ballot issue by affidavit; one to watch counting ballots; one to inspect the ballot packages.

17 V.S.A. §2564

Candidates, political parties, and ballot initiative committees can’t have more than two representatives outside the guardrail.

Va. Code Ann. §24.2-604

Must be a registered voter; one person per party per polling place at a given time but no more than three total for any organization; independent candidates can also appoint a poll watcher. Prohibits candidates from serving as poll watchers.

RCV 29A.40.100

County auditors must request that observers appointed by the political parties be present during the processing of ballots; auditors can also request that observers from campaigns and organizations be present
West Virginia

W.VA. Code §3-1-37; W.VA. Code §3-1-41

Poll watchers are not permitted in the polling places; it is the responsibility of the election officials to challenge voters.

W.S.A. 7.41

Any member of the public may be an observer except for a candidate on the ballot; observers must be in a designated location and they have to sign a log maintained by an official at the polling place.

W.S. §22-15-109

Must be certified by the county chairman of a political party; one per party unless election judge decides one additional watcher may be accommodated without disrupting polling process. Must be registered voter in the county and “belong” to the party they represent.
Resource: ncsl.org

Gavin Palmer, a law student from Georgetown University and NCSL’s former legal clerk, collaborated on this research.