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. Logic n LA

    Good! It's about time the international community treated us the way we treat other countries. With the reported coruption in the past, it's time Americans wake up to the fact that politic is crooked

    October 25, 2012 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  2. TexEcon

    So we're supposed to waive enforcement of some of our laws for an international agency whose agenda is politically suspect? Secretary Clinton's invitation does not trump state law.

    October 25, 2012 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
  3. GI Joe

    The states that oppose these "watchers" seem to be either red, or have had republicans throwing away democrat voter applications. They protest too loudly is indicative that there is a lot to hide.

    October 25, 2012 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  4. AK_steve

    Just follow the GOP money. That will certainly show you where and who is rigging the election. Latest news – GOP hires firm to destroy democratic voter registration.

    GOP must be the most corrupt and hypocritical political party in US modern history.

    October 25, 2012 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  5. raul

    lol at unathorized they are by our government.. ....Texas law, he notes, does not allow "unauthorized individuals" within 100 feet of polling places. theres a diffrence in observing elections,, clearly they want to observe where as texas wants to interfere with elections.

    October 25, 2012 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  6. SensibleJoe

    Get a grip, Texas. They're just observers. The United States sends American observers to foreign elections all over the globe, so what's the problem with a little reciprocation? If anything, look at it as an opportunity to show foreigners how democracy under the rule of law is done right - unless, of course, you're conspiring to commit a little illegal electoral hanky-panky and are afraid of being called out on it.

    October 25, 2012 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  7. Chuck Hendrix

    go figure, Texass doesn't want to be observed by an impartial body of observers.. Wonder why.. Actually I do not wonder at all.

    October 25, 2012 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
  8. NinjaGirl

    Read this, and try to pretend you don't understand why our troops don't always feel welcome in the Muslim countries we're sent to occupy.

    October 25, 2012 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  9. ogre12

    international community wanting to check AMERICA's election system..well it is open to scrutinization..but that does not mean any outsider has a vote one way or the other...this is why we need to insure that illegals do not have opportunity to vote. This is what the libdemwits want though just to keep themselves in power.

    October 25, 2012 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  10. Pam

    BUTT OUT Europe. Why do you think it is necessary to even observer our election/voting.

    October 25, 2012 09:52 pm at 9:52 pm |
  11. Jason

    May God bless Texas for having the wherewithal to stand up to the OSCE and these "monitors", as well as to the State Dept. itself...It is beyond time the US take back its' sovereignty from the "international community"...The "international community" and all of its' arms and tentacles needs to be told to stay out of US internal affairs.

    October 25, 2012 09:52 pm at 9:52 pm |
  12. Anonymous

    Texass must have something to cover up then, else it would be NO problem.. don't ya think?

    October 25, 2012 09:52 pm at 9:52 pm |
  13. Blossom

    But I bet the TX AG would consider tea party members 'Authorized monitors'!

    October 25, 2012 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |
  14. Siara

    I'm delighted to read this. It's about time we brought an end to the corruption that's contaminated our electoral process. Maybe we should call them into Ohio, where Mitt Romney's son owns the voting machines.

    October 25, 2012 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |
  15. RonH

    I realize asking Texas to lighten up and relax is asking a bit much, but Texas...lighten up and relax.

    October 25, 2012 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  16. Veritas

    God bless Texas, again!

    October 25, 2012 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  17. Silence

    "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." This is coming from a union of countries (EU) that won't let you travel from one town to another without a passport (papers)? Give me a break!

    October 25, 2012 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  18. DogBitez

    What's Texas afraid of? Hmmm.

    October 25, 2012 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  19. orso

    Seems like Mr. Abbott has something to hide.

    October 25, 2012 09:59 pm at 9:59 pm |
  20. ANon

    Its sad that america even needs election monitors but they can do nothing but benefit our process. Funny how republicans attacked dems for attacking those "voter fraud" ads in ohio but cry foul from election monitors in texas.

    October 25, 2012 10:00 pm at 10:00 pm |
  21. Mahmoud El-Darwish

    Just boot Texas out of the Union I say.

    October 25, 2012 10:00 pm at 10:00 pm |
  22. JeremyB

    Don't mess with Texas!!! In fact, they want be their own country. Can't blame them looking at their economic stability and innovative thinking compared to other states at the moment. They would have to go and spend some time in diplomacy 101 class..Texas AG and Bush Jr. must have missed that class. This election is down to the wire and the last thing election/poll volunteers need is additional sets of eyes over their shoulders creating distractions.

    October 25, 2012 10:00 pm at 10:00 pm |
  23. LOL

    Relax folks, foreigners just want to make sure every illegal alien vote counts!

    October 25, 2012 10:00 pm at 10:00 pm |
  24. Lisa

    Texas is the PUKE of the United States,they should leave the Union like they want to.

    October 25, 2012 10:01 pm at 10:01 pm |
  25. abbydelabbey

    What are they afraid the monitors might observe????

    October 25, 2012 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
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