Washington (CNN) – The presence of international monitors observing next week's presidential and Congressional election has caused a firestorm among voter ID law supporters and, particularly, the Texas attorney general.
The reservations came after the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) announced it is sending dozens of monitors from around the world to monitor the upcoming presidential and Congressional elections.
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The OSCE, which sends monitoring teams to elections around the world, has been observing U.S. elections since 2002, when the Bush administration invited them after the hotly contested 2000 presidential election. They are expected to observe in 15 states on November 6th.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott Thursday wrote a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressing his displeasure with the OSCE's approach, stating that "an unnecessary political agenda may have infected OSCE's election monitoring." Texas law, he notes, does not allow "unauthorized individuals" within 100 feet of polling places. He asked Clinton to work with the OSCE to ensure the group abides by the state law or they will risk "legal consequences."
OSCE's team for the U.S. elections has 13 international experts based in Washington D.C. and 44 long-term observers to be deployed throughout the country. The OSCE called it "the largest Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe parliamentary delegation to ever observe a North American election."
"We are not coming to judge a result but to report about the process," said Joao Soares, a Portuguese member of parliament who is helping coordinate monitoring effort, in a statement on the group's website. "In a country so well-known for its diverse citizenry, we will observe how inclusive the election process is in line with the country's own laws and international election commitments."
The monitoring team issued an interim report last week warning "recent state-level legislative initiatives to limit early voting and introduce stricter voter identification have become highly polarized. Democrats are concerned that these would disenfranchise eligible voters, while Republicans believe they are necessary to protect the integrity of the vote."
This week a group of civil rights groups, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the League of Women Voters, sent a letter to Daan Evarts, head of the OSCE mission, urging him to send monitors to states where voter ID laws and early voting restrictions "voting have been most extensive-Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, Texas and Wisconsin."
The letter also urged Everts to send monitors to Colorado, North Carolina and Virginia. Most of these are considered battleground states in the presidential election.
In a letter to Everts, Texas Attorney General Abbott noted the OSCE identified voter ID laws as a barrier to the right to vote and is being urged by voter ID opponents "to monitor states that have taken steps to protect ballot integrity by enacting voter ID laws."
"The OSCE may be entitled to its opinions about voter ID laws, but your opinion is legally irrelevant in the United States, where the Supreme Court has already determined that voter ID laws are constitutional," Abbott wrote. "Groups and individuals from outside the United States are not allowed to influence or interfere with the election process in Texas."
In addition to visiting polling stations on Election Day, the OSCE monitors have already met with federal, state and local officials and candidates since starting their work earlier this month, according to the Vienna-based agency.
But in his letter to Everts, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott warned OSCE representatives are not authorized by Texas law to enter a polling place and then stated they could face criminal prosecution for coming within 100 feet of a polling place.
State Department Spokesperson Victoria Nuland said Texas was the only state to her knowledge that came forward with reservations, but that the OSCE has since sent a letter, both to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and to Texas authorities reassuring them that "OSCE observers are committed to following all U.S. laws and regulations as they do in any country where they observe elections."
But Janez Lenarčič, the Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights which oversees election monitoring, also shared his concerns about Abbot's threats in his letter to Clinton.
"The threat of criminal sanctions against OSCE/ODIHR observers is unacceptable," Lenarčič said. "The United States, like all countries in the OSCE, has an obligation to invite ODIHR observers to observe its elections."
He called concerns that election observers would interfere with the election process "groundless" and stressed OSCE observers adhere to all national laws of the countries whose elections they are monitoring.
"Our observers are required to remain strictly impartial and not to intervene in the voting process in any way," Lenarčič said. "They are in the United States to observe these elections, not to interfere in them."
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Don't mess with Texas :)
way to go TX. way to embarrass yourself again. we're all very impressed.
After having lived in Lubbock County Texas in my youth and having voted for George HW Bush for State Senator because he seemed to be the most honest of all Texans I had met (by a very small margin) I always figured ALL Texas politicians were corrupt and horse thieves.
If the Texas Atty. General is screaming loud and clear, it's because he like every other office holder in the state owes a lot of political favors and has a lot to hide.
Texas is great for their reaction. UN monitors in the US need to monitor Chicago, the gut of election fraud.
It is quite clear that the foreign observers have no interest or intention in affecting the voting, they are impartial and only observing the election process. I think there should be considerable concern that some states where officials are far right leaning (like Texas, Florida, New Jersey, etc.) will do whatever they can to profile/dissuade legal voters from coming to the polls if those voters are likely to vote for Democratic candidates. This seems to take us back to a time when, in the southern U.S., where whites and conservatives violated the rights of minority voters, intimidating them to keep them from voting. It is a very sad state of affairs that such things can happen in modern times in America where everyone is supposed to be equal!
Leave it to Texas to puff their chest and shout out a bunch of stupidity.
sounds like more right wing shenanigans
I applaud the stance that the State of Texas has taken against foreign countries attempting to oversee the elections of The Unites States of America. It seems that only Texas understands that this is an autonomous country that we live in and that there is no acceptable questioning of what happens within our borders by any foreign body. The statement made by this foreign group that " we have an obligation to invite the observers" is complete ludicrousness. This man and his entire foreign group should be immediately expelled from the country and never be allowed inside our borders again just for speaking such a statement. The rest of the world needs to understand that we do not have any need for them or their opinions and that we are The United States of America, not the united countries of the world. We have our laws and systems and they will not be dictated to by foreign bodies.
I see Texas has something to hide.
Uhhhhh ohhhhh..........why is Texans sooooo worried??????
We don't need corrupt and biased UN observers to come here. Don't come here to teach us how to vote.
If Texas is committed to fair elections, then people observing the election process shouldn't bother them at all. What do they have to hide?
What's Texas hiding? More republican voter tampering? Given the scale the republicans have been doing it on this election treason charges should be made against them.
Who is paying for these people to come and observe our electoral process
The saying tells all: Don't Mess With Texas! Love my state!
me thinks he doth protest too much.
This is the USA, not the UN ! The UN does not supercede the USA. Get us out of the United Nations and get the United Nations headquarters out of the United States. We have no business participating in a body where our enemies out-vote us.
While they are observing, they should note how most people vote with their wallet and emotions.
Texas republicans want to be by themselves! Leave them alone! ~sob~
Somebody in Texas forgot that US Treaty obligatons carry the weight of federal law. Federal law trumps state law. States cannot act to violate U.S. treaty obligations. Sorry, Texas, but you're still part of the United States. We resolved that by force of arms in 1865–when you surrendered.
Texas voting procedures are an.embarresment to the United States.
Sad commentary on voting in the U.S. and particularly TX stance on 3rd party observers. With the GOP's attempt at voter suppression, intimidation, peddling false information throughout many states is it any wonder the Republican AG Abbott has nothing better to do but start a battle against a 3rd party monitoring group with threats of prosecution.
Abbott should be investigated for abuse of power and malfeasance.
"They are in the United States to observe these elections, not to interfere in them."
Then they will not have a problem abiding by the law ... which is the only thing that Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott asked for. It seems that Lenarčič wants her immunity for group so that they may violate the law if they so choose.
Good show Texas.. keep the globalists out of your business... all states should adopt that stance.
Whats Texas worried about unless they have something to hide or intimidate folks during the voting process. I say let'em succed from the union if thery don't like the rules. If ya can't play fair don't play at all