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. Leroy

    Texans for Obama/Biden in 2012 !!!

    October 25, 2012 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
  2. Mike

    Where was the OSCE when the Black Panthers intimidated white voters in Philadelphia?

    October 25, 2012 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  3. Sadie Boyd

    This must occur! We need monitors NOW!

    October 25, 2012 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  4. kim

    Would Texas allow the nit-wits from Truth the Vote to monitor? They are much more dangerous than an internationaly recognized commission. If I see any TTV thugs at my polling place, they will be made to feel extremely uncomfortable.

    October 25, 2012 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  5. IalreadyearlyvotedforObama

    I see the racist don't like it when they get the tables turned on them.

    October 25, 2012 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  6. RainCityLady

    If democratic nation has nothing to hide, their elections should be open for anyone to observe. Why am I not surprised that Texas doesn't want anyone watching?

    October 25, 2012 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
  7. Steve S

    Republicans are against voter fraud, but object to polling station 'observers'.
    What's wrong with this picture??

    October 25, 2012 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
  8. scranton

    Don't mess with TEXAS! If Gore would of just won his home state of Tennessee they would never been allowed to monitor us in the first place. Whining Democrats anyway.

    October 25, 2012 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
  9. Republican who supports President Obama

    If they have nothing to hide then they should NOT have a problem. We insert ourselves into other countries so I do not see a problem if we allow observers to see how we manage an election.

    October 25, 2012 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
  10. NorthVanCan

    Oh, who the mighty have fallen.

    October 25, 2012 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  11. Jim

    An unnecessary political agenda, as, in fair elections...

    October 25, 2012 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
  12. Katie

    What are they afraid of? I'd love all the GOPers who are so adamant about the prevention of voter fraud that they would sacrifice hundreds, perhaps thousands of votes in order to prevent one person somewhere from voting when he shouldn't. to answer this: what are you so afraid of? Do you think that YOU got elected through voter fraud? Is that why you need to shut it down?

    October 25, 2012 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm |
  13. Mittless is Wittless

    I can't believe we are in 2012 and Texas lawmakers are trying to go back to the 1960's. If you have nothing to hide, then you don't have to worry about any monitors. So by making this declaration, I think the Sec of State of Texas must be feeling a bit guilty about something.

    October 25, 2012 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm |
  14. dreucalypt

    Clearly, judging from how Texas is behaving, the OSCE has reason to be worried about the fairness and openness of American elections.

    October 25, 2012 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
  15. Guest

    Good for Texas.

    October 25, 2012 10:09 pm at 10:09 pm |
  16. NameDena

    With the serious problems that we are having politically right now, we need this like we need another hole in the head. Right now, until we can resolve these issues, the international community needs to either get out of our way or leqave us alone right now. Their presence is sorely unnecessary and intrusive. I've even seen people standing around yacking while people are voting (and standing way too damn close for comfort) to the voting booths while people are voting. Once I had to ask them politley to leave. I only did it that way because I was already A NERVOUS WRECK! This wasa during the 2010 election 2 years ago. NOT GOOD! Not to mention that there were rumors of the Black Panthers showing up. I love my high school mascot, but this is getting out of control!

    October 25, 2012 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  17. james

    It makes me embarrassed to be a resident of Texas.

    October 25, 2012 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  18. Archyle

    Thank god someone stands up to this nonsense. You have to have an ID to do everything in this country. Having to show an ID to vote should only disenfranchise those who were planning on some illegal activity. The main disenfranchisement in this election isn't the ID's or ACORN like tactics of voter fraud, it's the reasoning that the choice of candidates always feels like a choice between Gonhorrea and Syphilis, which one will be more manageable and do less damage?

    October 25, 2012 10:12 pm at 10:12 pm |
  19. JR in TX

    I have already voted early here in Texas and I did not see any multi-national election monitors or U.N. Peacekeepers down at the local courthouse. I guess Mr. Abbott already ran them off.

    October 25, 2012 10:12 pm at 10:12 pm |
  20. Jessica

    I'm a native Texan, born and raised for over twenty years, I can say with complete honesty that the Republican Party does try to disenfranchise people from exercising their legal right to vote in this state. I love Texas, but this state's leadership has repeatedly and consistently tried to take away rights for women to have abortions, affirmative action,and preventing Latinos and minorities from voting. There are a lot of great things about Texas, but every time a story like this comes up it makes me wince in embarrassment. And Chuck Norris-please, just go away quietly and stop making all Texans look like raving lunatics to the rest of the country. Playing a Texas Ranger on a T.V. show does not make you qualified to speak for all Texans.

    I say let the observers come-if the Attorney General is so certain that Texas abides by all federal regulations, then he shouldn't have anything to worry about, should he?

    October 25, 2012 10:12 pm at 10:12 pm |
  21. nbgb

    What is Texas hiding? What are they afraid of. I am an independent and I am absolutely disgusted with all the dirty tricks the GOP is pulling. I used to be a republican but I am embarrassed to admit it. Now I refuse to vote for a republican. If a democratic or other candidate is unacceptable to me I will leave it blank. THANKS GOP for what you have done to this great nation.

    October 25, 2012 10:15 pm at 10:15 pm |
  22. Karen

    The skunk smells his own stink first. If the Texas Attorney General is uncomfortable with voting monitors,
    maybe he has something to hide?

    October 25, 2012 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  23. JR in TX

    I have already voted early here in Texas and I did not see any multi-national election monitors or U.N. Peacekeepers down at the local courthouse. I guess Mr. Abbott already ran them off.

    October 25, 2012 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  24. w5cdt

    Typical Texas chauvanism

    October 25, 2012 10:18 pm at 10:18 pm |
  25. Texas voter

    I, for one, am glad we have the internatonal onservers. There is no real problem with voter fraud & these laws weren't/aren't needed. Incidentally, I showed up for early voting without a driver's license & was able to use my Sam's Club member ID card. Really, how worried about ID is this state. Then again, I'm a middle aged white woman in an affluent city & a GOP county...obviously not the intended demographic to strictly screen. I wonder how that would work if I was a minority in South Dallas.

    October 25, 2012 10:19 pm at 10:19 pm |
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