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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I'm Asian and an American citizen, and looks Asians as can be, sometimes mistaken for Mexican. I voted in Texas yesterday and nobody asked for my ID. I presented my registration, and the nice lady there took that as enough proof for my right to vote. There's a lot of bad accusations hurled from both sides, and humans are by nature what to do what is right. No voter's right suppression in my part of Texas, and don't mess with it.
Check out the New Black Panthers in Philadelphia. Obama's Justice Department passed on those felons. It was on tape and an old time civil rights advocate said it was criminal. But what would he know.
It's a sad day that I've seen coming for many years now...the election process in our country has become so corrupt that now it's *US* who need our elections monitored by impartial international bodies. What next? UN Peacekeepers on the ground?
Texas is made up of corrupt cowards who are too afraid of being caught by the international media
Why would Texas object if they have nothing to hide? We want everyone else's elections to be fair so we send teams to monitor. What's good for the goose.
It's truly sad that it has come to this. Having to be monitored like a banana republic because of strongarm policies. There's been no integrity in American elections since 2000. Be prepared to lose it all, Middle America.
Texas: fighting justice, education, and progress since 1845.
Never underestimate the Democrats ability to sway an election.
I can see why Texas politicians would object. One state candidate claimed in some counties in Texas there hadn't been a honest election since the Civil War, and after living there for some time I don't doubt him. Texas, a whole 'nother planet.
Hmmm....So, what about so-called "True the Vote" intimidators / "poll watchers" who are threatening to stalk would be voters at polling places in pursuit of the illegal, unethical, radical, right wingnut conspiracy to try to steal the election for Mitt the Millionaire?!?!? Will they be arrested in Texas if they intimidate or stalk voters?!?!?
We are expecrts in Democracy – we don't need any no stinkinng 'monitoring'
Texas – just another red state worried that someone will witness them influencing or interfering with a person's right to vote. Do you really think that if Romney were way ahead in the polls that the Texas AG would care? No. The truth is, the GOP is again going to try and steal this election, since they know their candidate is not viable. The Texas AG trying to bully international observers is like a fifth grader trying to appeal to the Supreme Court. Shut up already. If you have nothing to hide, then it shouldn't matter who watches your polling practices.
All I can say is wow. This isn't a recipe for disaster. Nope, not at all.....(sigh) just another example of our soverignty being shoveled out the door. How long until a law gets passed that everywhere an american flag is displayed you have to have a U.N. flag just a little bit higher? Bow down to the overlords.......
Great foreign diplomats those texans are. Lol
Translation of Abbotts letter. We will criminally prosecute any interference with our rigging of this election.
They really dont need to come down here–it will go Rep no matter what–can't cure dumb
If Texas were so confident their elections aren't rigged they'd give international monitors a big ol' Texas welcome!
Methinks Mr. Abbott doth protest too much for someone who has nothing to hide.
The state's corruption stinks like a rotting armadillo.
If Texas has nothing to hide, snicker, snicker, they would have ZERO problem with this since these same clowns in the GOP are so quick to monitor elections in other countries when it suits their needs.
We all know the GOP is making a concerted effort to stop anyone from voting democrat. It is all over the news and the courts have ruled, for those that are going to say huh?
I'm waiting for the onslaught of "DON'T MESS WITH TEXAS!"
Anyone still voting for this "one party system" needs to be monitored while voting, for its obvious they are insane, by definition, thinking any of this is going to change, or that their vote matters to begin with.
What planet does Lenarčič live on?? It seems he's completely lost track of the situation with his comment "Lenarčič said. "The United States, like all countries in the OSCE, has an obligation to invite ODIHR observers to observe its elections." Bush invite this organization into the US not the other way around and what about the "obligation" part??? I sincerely hope for two things: 1) Texas does indeed arrest one of these idiots and 2) Romney (our next president hopefully) de-invites these "observers".