Texas, international election monitors face off
October 25th, 2012
06:24 PM ET
1 year ago

Texas, international election monitors face off

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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Filed under: 2012 • Texas
soundoff (346 Responses)
  1. EJ

    Such actions by states like Texas and Arizona proves this country continues to have a serious problem with racial discrimination. Neither of these states has had a problem with people voting as long as both candidates were white. The Republican Party with these republican states are really showing their true colors....

    October 26, 2012 04:15 am at 4:15 am |
  2. jim

    This action by the TX AG simpy makes him look backwards and stupid. He needs to learn the LAW.

    October 26, 2012 04:16 am at 4:16 am |
  3. WHY NOT?

    The OSCE should be able to OBSERVE on the Day (Nov 6) of Election. If True The Vote Can So Can the OSCE!!!
    **** Unless Texas Has Some Thing to HIDE......you Know the Saying, Everything is Bigger in Texas...... ****

    October 26, 2012 04:19 am at 4:19 am |
  4. FlinstonsTime

    the losser star again, setting the example for rough regimes to follow.

    October 26, 2012 04:20 am at 4:20 am |
  5. Anonymous

    Texas. We should let it be its own country like it prefers. Honestly, would anyone miss it? I guess we would have to make a new flag with 49 stars. And the song "50 Nifty United States" would have to be rewritten. How about the "49 Fine United States"? It could work...

    October 26, 2012 04:25 am at 4:25 am |
  6. Edward

    It seems Texas doesn't want monitoring of the election, for the same reason Romney doesn't want to release his tax returns.

    October 26, 2012 04:27 am at 4:27 am |
  7. nemo0037

    Huh. If Texas is so certain that they have nothing but the best in free and fair elections, why would they object to having monitors?

    October 26, 2012 04:33 am at 4:33 am |
  8. aaron

    Texas doth protest way too much, obviously has too much to hide about its systemic disenfranchisement of minorities.

    October 26, 2012 04:35 am at 4:35 am |
  9. soulmotor

    What I want to know is what do we have to fear (hide)? If our elections are as open and free as we believe it's OK to have an observer. We want them in "third world" countries and that's dandy.

    October 26, 2012 04:41 am at 4:41 am |
  10. Mike

    In Texas you do not invite yourself inside. That is considered an insult.

    October 26, 2012 04:43 am at 4:43 am |
  11. soulmotor

    What do we have to fear/hide? If the election process is as free and open as we believe them to be then an outside observer is not a problem. They just watch. We want these observers in "third world" countries during their elections and that's just dandy.

    October 26, 2012 04:44 am at 4:44 am |
  12. Texas

    They need to monitor the polling places in Philly where the black panthers postured during the 2008 election.

    October 26, 2012 04:48 am at 4:48 am |
  13. Chedar

    We desperately need the monitor in Florida to avoid the hanging Chad.

    October 26, 2012 04:48 am at 4:48 am |
  14. Anonymous

    Texas: We don't need no stinking inspectors. We are doing everything by the book. Nothing to see here, move along.

    October 26, 2012 04:52 am at 4:52 am |
  15. larry5

    Obama should send his monitors, the New Black Panthers to Texas to monitor Texas voting. I'd pay to see that show.

    October 26, 2012 05:03 am at 5:03 am |
  16. alfjdkf

    The rest of the world already knows we have a rotten election system (2000,2004 and more) so what's the problem with letting everyone see the real US? Millions of votes go "missing" and not one peep about it ever. The best democracy money can buy, but it also helps to buy the voting machines!

    October 26, 2012 05:04 am at 5:04 am |
  17. Paul

    It seems to me that the observations of OSCE observers should be no more or less "legally irrelevant" than those of a bunch of wingnuts dispatched from the Koch brothers in the so-called "truethevote" smokescreen to suppress minority voters and gum up the polls.

    I'm sure that Abbott will be just as diligent (not) in enforcing the 100 foot limit for truethevote .

    October 26, 2012 05:04 am at 5:04 am |
  18. nytw

    Liberals won't rest until America is destroyed.

    October 26, 2012 05:14 am at 5:14 am |
  19. Madison

    WHat a sad day, but inevitable. Texas and much of the South operate like any other third world nation, and as such now req

    October 26, 2012 05:17 am at 5:17 am |
  20. Madison

    and now require international voting monitors to try to ensure free and fair elections. Perhaps we thought that we had moved beyond that when Texan Lyndon Baines Johnson pushed the Voting Rights Act through congress and into law in 1965, but Texas still behaves as a state the same way Putin's Russia or Castro's Cuba does when it comes to elections.

    October 26, 2012 05:18 am at 5:18 am |
  21. Hammer

    Kudos to Mr. Abbott for taking this stand. This is nothing but harassment by the "United Nations" and quite frankly they have no business being in Texas. Go address a real issue someplace. I'm sure they can find one or two.

    DON'T MESS WITH TEXAS!

    October 26, 2012 05:22 am at 5:22 am |
  22. just a guy

    Replace Texas with Russia and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott with Russian President Vladimir Putin and maybe the story has a different ring. If the Texas law were legitimately about preventing voter fraud, Texas would welcome international monitors with open arms. Instead, they are trying to scare them off. Why? Well because the law is 100% about voter suppression and specifically about Democratic voter suppression. It’s just that simple. And the GOP has the brass ones to call themselves patriots. What a joke.

    October 26, 2012 05:23 am at 5:23 am |
  23. DamnUfools

    This of course only gives the appearance that they have something to hide... which we all know is most likely the fact of the matter as to why they really don't want these monitors there. The Texas Good Ol' Boys Club wouldn't want to be caught red handed; it's much easier after the fact when their activist judges can declare it was all above board and legal , and then their moron counterparts in the SCOTUS will agree.

    October 26, 2012 05:24 am at 5:24 am |
  24. Bemused

    The OSCE has been observing US elections since 2002. Why hasn't Texas complained in previous elections? The question that begs to be asked is: when did Texas enact this law that criminalizes unauthorized persons who are within 100 feet of polling places? To adhere to international obligations, shouldn't Texas simply amend that law to allow these persons?

    October 26, 2012 05:35 am at 5:35 am |
  25. Sandra

    If the GOP and its supporters hadn't been so blatant about voter suppression, voter intimidation, voter fraud and other shenanigans that would have had the US demanding it be investigated had all these happened elsewhere, this election wouldn't need International Monitoring. But as it stands now, it does because if not monitored, no one trusts the GOP or supporters to not rig or fix the election results.

    October 26, 2012 05:38 am at 5:38 am |
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