Texas, international election monitors face off
October 25th, 2012
06:24 PM ET
10 years 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. Juan

    Hey, Texas, got anything to hide?

    October 26, 2012 12:44 am at 12:44 am |
  2. Smurf

    We monitor other countries' elections, so it's fair play that ours are monitored.

    October 26, 2012 12:50 am at 12:50 am |
  3. Expat

    The Attorney General is right to raise the issue. There is too much interference in the process as it is, with journalists from outside of America interfering with the political process.

    October 26, 2012 12:53 am at 12:53 am |
  4. barbara451

    I wish Texas would get their wish and leave the union. They are a bunch of jerks

    October 26, 2012 12:58 am at 12:58 am |
  5. TNPatriot

    Is anybody surprised that Texas doesn't want anybody checking their election process?

    October 26, 2012 12:59 am at 12:59 am |
  6. Lonewolf

    Does Texas have anything to hide????Are we afraid to have monitors like we do in other countries!!!

    October 26, 2012 12:59 am at 12:59 am |
  7. DemoncratsBeGone

    Every single election year, the Dead Democrat Society rises from their graves in Florida to cast their vote before drifting off into the ether. It's uncanny, but I wonder if this observation group is interested in non-intelligent ghosts trying to throw the election again.

    One thing about Demoncrats you will learn; they don't (or won't) play by laws and rules everyone else does and they don't play fair whatsoever.

    October 26, 2012 01:00 am at 1:00 am |
  8. reasonablebe

    incredible that we would insist other countries allow us to monitor, but we are 'outraged' that they want to monitor ours. Texas, what are you afraid they will find? What are you hiding?

    October 26, 2012 01:01 am at 1:01 am |
  9. Expat

    Any election held in the U.S., only concerns the American folks who can vote. Other countries do not vote, and do not elect the government of the United States, American folks do. This has to stop, it is an outrage, and although the observers are not a bad idea, journalists of observers from other countries, do not have the right to make political comments or calls based on which party does what i.e. Democrats or Republicans, what Mitt Romney, or even President Obama, will or will not do. They can comment on who won an election, and who didn't, but they should not be making calls on the election or the politics of the parties.

    October 26, 2012 01:02 am at 1:02 am |
  10. Ranger luna

    These monitors should be arrested and sent packing back to the UN! I suppose this is an Obama initiative!

    October 26, 2012 01:03 am at 1:03 am |
  11. Lonewolf

    Sounds like a state is afraid of being monitored. If you have nothing to hide there should be no problem with international monitors.

    October 26, 2012 01:04 am at 1:04 am |
  12. Cedar Rapids

    What's the common response the supporters of voter ID laws like to use? Oh yeah......if you are innocent then you have nothing to fear. Why the worry Texas? Pathetic.

    October 26, 2012 01:06 am at 1:06 am |
  13. equalityforall

    What is very interesting about the states that are enacting this so called VOTER-ID rule are the states that have the most minorities. And these minorities legally have right to vote! The Republican party is doing everything it can to minimize the true voice of the American people. If they so rightly feel that they will win the election, why not let the voice of the people speak? I am not a U.S. citizen, but from what we read, see and hear, the Republican party is nothing but a "hidden" racist party. We all know that here in Europe. There is nothing "advanced" about the U.S. in terms of it's ability to advance equality and respect of all, no matter color, creed or religion. Basing your vote on color... come on, we are not in the 60s!

    October 26, 2012 01:07 am at 1:07 am |
  14. Evelyn Connaway

    We voters want the OSCE and all organization to observe the election process in the State of Texas and all the other states that have crooked republican politicians who have been trying to suppress our voting system. Republicans are the only ones that have a problem – they don't want any democrats voting. I'm so fed up with the republicans trying to control the citizens of Texas. They might make their stupid laws – but we have our right to vote for whoever we want to. Just like they do. It's each individuals choice to vote for whoever they want too! So Greg Abbott keep your mouth shut and leave us alone.

    October 26, 2012 01:15 am at 1:15 am |
  15. Margaret

    Interesting, they have no problem with the US sending people to observe elections in other countries to make sure there is no intimidation or violations of law, and yet they don't want the same thing in their states.

    October 26, 2012 01:17 am at 1:17 am |
  16. Just going to say it

    Do we really need election observers in Texas? We all know which way they are going to go in the presidential election with or without fraud being committed.

    October 26, 2012 01:21 am at 1:21 am |
  17. Jonathen K

    Well in the words of Donald Trump himself

    "if they have nothing to hide, there shouldn't be a problem". Although the article points out the problem.. Republicans attempting restrict voters..

    October 26, 2012 01:22 am at 1:22 am |
  18. Bill

    The Attorney General is right to raise these objections. Those who are not involved in the voting or electoral process,
    should not be interfering with the American electoral process. It is an outrage when journalists from countries outside of America, keep making comments about the American political process.

    Who Americans vote for, and vote into office, is their business, not the business
    of observers or journalists from other countries.

    Sometimes, there are reporters from other countries, who stand in front of the White House, and make comments,
    and barbs about American politics as if it was somehow their right to do so.

    Again, they can report on a particular foreign policy matter that concers their country,
    but that does not give them the right to take shots and make political barbs about America,
    the politics of the White House, what the President is going through politically or the political process.

    October 26, 2012 01:23 am at 1:23 am |
  19. John

    What does Texas have to worry about? If they're honest and not turning people away for no reason, I think they have nothing to worry about. It seems like someone is trying to intimidate minority voters.

    October 26, 2012 01:25 am at 1:25 am |
  20. Voter

    How embarrassing. We send out monitors alongside these monitors to watch elections everywhere from Russia to Africa to South America - and now that we have to be accountable, us "the greatest democracy in the world" we cry "stay away, this is our place, our rules, we don't want to be monitored!" YUK YUK YUK

    October 26, 2012 01:28 am at 1:28 am |
  21. Geo Shag

    Hm, sounds like Texas may have something to hide??????? Whats the big deal????????

    October 26, 2012 01:31 am at 1:31 am |
  22. Miklan

    Everything's more ignorant in texas?

    October 26, 2012 01:36 am at 1:36 am |
  23. Anonymous

    "The United States, like all countries in the OSCE, has an obligation to invite ODIHR observers to observe its elections." Why is the United States a member of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe??

    October 26, 2012 01:37 am at 1:37 am |
  24. rosethornne

    How dare them furriners interfere with our god given right to steal an election!
    Er... ah mean, our right to free and fair elections for all, yeah, that's the ticket....

    October 26, 2012 01:38 am at 1:38 am |
  25. Jacky

    Amazing how defensive bigot tea party officials get when someone simply wants to monitor the process of election. These same people vote to end troops abroad to promote "freedom".

    October 26, 2012 01:41 am at 1:41 am |
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