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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what's he got to hide?
Hey Abbott, move to China!
It appears that TX may have something to hide.
Get out of the union Texas fraud
Ultimately voting does not matter -> Electorial College can over rule anything legal or not
What's the old saw the cop drags out during the traffic stop? "Well, if you got nothin' to hide son, you won't mind me searching your car, now will ya?"
Sounds like TX has something to hide.
Ohio and other states where Romney has ties to the new owners of voting machines should be carefully monitored. And Texas, Florida, Colorado and Wisconsin definitely should be watched because of general behavior by neocons.
It's interesting there was no backlash when True-the-Vote, a teaparty group based out of TEXAS, announed that would send 1M observers across the country, but when there backlash to the OSCE sending observers? What's up Texas, what's good for the goose is not good for the gander?
There need to be more of them. Drive the GOP into a frenzy... it'll be that much easier to pick them off.
Sorry but the USA isn't obliged to do anything.
GOOD! We need these foreign observers because this country or the GOP is trying to steal this election. What is good for the goose should be good for the gander. The GOP is determined to steal this agenda, is look at this the same as Hitler in his successful efforts to take control of Germany. If Rommney wins, God help us. We will be forced to down our throats their religious agenda.
why are these foreigners being allowed to do this? I hope they come within 100 ft and the texas rangers throw them in the state pen and then ins revokes their right to be in our country and sends them back to the rotten hole they came from. We dont need no help from any other country we are america. We tell other countries what to do not the other way round. And if the foreigners dont like it TOO BAD
C'mon TX, what do you have to hide? Mabe TX has been a blue state for decades...
Texas, the only state that doesn't want the observers. The same state where evolution is slower than anywhere else, because they don't believe in it. The same state where the death penalty is most celebrated. The same state that would be happy to be called the country of Texas.
Ooops! typo. it should be "observers"
God bless Texas
In the past I came to believe I had a big head... In the present I have been proven wrong as I am unable to wrap my head around this! People from other counties will be monitoring our elections? So called experts who will observe and report on "the process." WHO ARE THEY REPORTING TO???? Last I checked this is America(I dare not say "United States of" because we are not and if you have to question that, your scope is narrow and local) Can't wait to see their report, I need a good laugh and there is nothing like foreigners telling us we are not properly doing what the founding fathers created.
This is silly. Third world countries like mine, Mexico, can afford and enforce id-requirement to vote. Don't tell me that the number one country in the world can't afford ids. You expose the process to irregularities if you don't enforce it. Banks need ids, schools need ids, recycling centers require ids... Raising concerns about requiring an id, is silly, plain and simple.
They only go places apparently they feel need montioring which they have been doing since 2002. If a state is doing nothing wrong or nothing that can be viewed as favoring one group over the other then they have nothing to fear. The stance by officials in texass obviously shows they fear being caught doing something.
Does Texas have something to hide?
Its only okay for banjo country when its somewhere else
I, for one, support any independent agency coming into my great state to make sure everything is run fairly and by law. What's sad to me is that we need them. While I also support Abbott's statement-I AM a Texan, afterall and like my fences and don't trust other states or countries in my weird liberal Texan way-there has been something hinky going on since 2000 and I don't like it. Bring it in and on. and screw Tagg for owning the polls. (What is it with the Republicans and their nicknames. Usually only gang members have those.)
If Texas conducts the election according to law, then it should have no issues with having its voting processes scrutinized passively by observers whose purpose is to ensure fair elections are conducted.
Of course, if the GOP is attempting to hide something they should not be doing, then that is a concern.
Welcome OSCE, unfortunately you are needed in this country. There was a time where you were not needed, other countries needed you to call it like it is, but now... unfortunately American elections need to be monitored. So sad that my country has come to this...never, in my lifetime did I ever think that OSCE would come to America. Beyond sad.
What's Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott got to hide? Poll watchers are allowed inside the polls under Texas law, I don't see how these people are anything different.
Apparently, the Texas AG would be well advised to sit down and help himself to a nice, steaming cup of STFU.