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. Anonymous

    Great news someone needs to watch whats going on!!!!!

    October 26, 2012 05:39 am at 5:39 am |
  2. paladin knight

    Apparently, Texas has something to hide...

    October 26, 2012 05:40 am at 5:40 am |
  3. Texcentric

    God bless Texas.

    October 26, 2012 05:41 am at 5:41 am |
  4. MollyBee

    Let's hope the GOP around the nation quits trying to cheat people out of their vote. No wonder our American children grow up thinking that anything goes.

    October 26, 2012 05:43 am at 5:43 am |
  5. TexasVoter

    I early voted on Monday morning and just had to show my voter ID card. Problem was once i got to the machine there was a lady, that wasn't one of the staff that was roaming around watching people. When i asked, she said she was a worker with the Republican party and was making sure people voted correctly. I complained and the woman was escorted out, thats is after cursing me out

    October 26, 2012 05:50 am at 5:50 am |
  6. Bob

    Texas politicians are crooks who want more state rights so they can steal.

    October 26, 2012 05:51 am at 5:51 am |
  7. corncop

    The obvious question is: What do you have to hide, Mr. Abbott? If your voter laws, and the application thereof are so legal and fair, why are you so terribly concerned about someone watching you and your election officials? Unfortunately, it seems that these restrictive laws are being put into place by states controlled by one political party, the Republicans. The application of which, although seemingly beneign, appear to be directed at suppressing the votes and disenfranchinsing voters of very specific demographics. Namely blacks, latinos, the poor, and the elderly. Groups that in many cases have historically supported non-Republican candidates and ideals. So if Mr. Abbott is so concerned about being watched on election day, I think that people or groups who support fair and open elections should take heed and watch him and the Texas polls even more closely! Just what is it that you do have to hide?

    October 26, 2012 05:54 am at 5:54 am |
  8. browcarey

    Leave it to Texas to object to something like this. Unless they have something to hide, which apparently they do, there's not legitimate reason to object to this. And of course, if Texas keeps the observers at least 100 feet away from the polls, they'll have effectively prevented the observers from doing their job. Threatening the observers with legal action is just unacceptable. I think Greg Abbot has a screw loose.

    October 26, 2012 05:56 am at 5:56 am |
  9. crazeelegs

    If Tx has nothing to hide, they should not have to worry about monitors. There has been many instances of voting irregularities throughout many states, especially Fla. Nobody should be allowed, in any manner, to be able to steal votes and the election. Bush invited them in, so now Tx can blame him–don't try to blame the president for this one–Mitt & fans.

    October 26, 2012 05:59 am at 5:59 am |
  10. Li

    "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."

    So what's the problem this time, Texas? Got something to hide?

    October 26, 2012 06:00 am at 6:00 am |
  11. smc

    These international monitors will be appalled by what they see. They are used to countries where nearly everyone votes, and often voters simply stick their thumb in a bottle of indelible ink to prove they voted. Instead, they will find Republicans have spent billions of dollars in a large scale effort to disenfranchise voters and discourage voting.

    October 26, 2012 06:08 am at 6:08 am |
  12. Jerome

    Gee, I wonder why they didn't ask them to observe in Democrat friendly states with high illegal immigrant populations like California.

    October 26, 2012 06:08 am at 6:08 am |
  13. Jason

    Ah so when someone comes in to judge whether voting is free and open, the right flips. When the right implements restrictions on voting, they think its ok. If its so ok, there is nothing to fear from monitors watching a 'free and open' election.

    October 26, 2012 06:11 am at 6:11 am |
  14. NoNo

    "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."

    Ah, yes, texas hospitality.

    October 26, 2012 06:14 am at 6:14 am |
  15. d. hamilton

    If you have nothing to hide then what is the problem with their presence? Yes, the rest of the world is bewildered by why this race is so close but their presence as observers can only add credibility to final results. Texas votes solidly Republican in the presidential elections – results are already projected to continue that trend.

    October 26, 2012 06:15 am at 6:15 am |
  16. DrJStrangepork

    If you have nothing to hide Texas, then what difference does it make if someone is sitting there watching it?

    October 26, 2012 06:18 am at 6:18 am |
  17. felix el gato

    Texas has its own ideas about democracy – and it doesn't include non-whites.

    October 26, 2012 06:28 am at 6:28 am |
  18. A World citizen

    The "Great" state of Texas seems to be above the – international – law and again proved its arrogance and hubris to the rest of the US society and the interrnational community.

    October 26, 2012 06:32 am at 6:32 am |
  19. Anonymous

    Texans...George Bush invited these people years ago and had no issues.Banning them only makes it appear that either you have something to hide or are bigoted and backward.

    October 26, 2012 06:36 am at 6:36 am |
  20. Paul from Texas

    As usual, Texas government officials want no one to know what is going on in the state. The Texas GOP controls the state legislature and most of the elected officials in Austin.

    They should welcome the election monitors like most states will probably do. If there in nothing wrong going on then they have nothing to hide. This stance puts a bad smell in the air, as if they have something to hide. I do not imply that there is anything going on but transparency should be the norm.

    October 26, 2012 06:37 am at 6:37 am |
  21. Jim in Georgia

    Is there REALLY a problem with unauthorized people voting? Is there any proof that it actually happens?

    October 26, 2012 06:37 am at 6:37 am |
  22. Name OutOfTheBox

    I live in Texas. I have been an election official and have observed how things are handled. After the polls closed, the cardboard box containing the ballots was "locked" with a plastic tie and taken to be counted by ONE person. The presence of outside monitors is not totally inappropriate.

    October 26, 2012 06:38 am at 6:38 am |
  23. Jack

    LOL @ Integrity of the vote! there is less than a 0.05% chance of voter fraud, this is designed to stop people from voting, it amounts to treason and election fraud.

    October 26, 2012 06:41 am at 6:41 am |
  24. Rob

    This organization needs to mind it's own business. Unlike other countries, we INVENTED the presidental election process. You might argue about the problem we had in 2000, but whether you agree with the result or not, this organization wouldn't have mattered in the end. The 'hanging chad' process was a vote counting thing, NOT a voting problem. Keep them away!!

    October 26, 2012 06:41 am at 6:41 am |
  25. Rob

    Now that I think about it, this organization COULD be helpful in one place, PHILADELPHIA. We need need to make sure that there are no more Black Panthers threatening voters to vote for Obama or else. Obviously our own Attorney General is afraid of them (or worse, supports them), if there was ever voter intimidation last time, it was in Philly.

    October 26, 2012 06:43 am at 6:43 am |
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