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. LevonTostig

    Obama was successful: The US has become a third-world banana republic.

    October 25, 2012 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  2. Greg

    What a pathetic individual – palpitating with righteous Texas-sized indignation that an independent agency would want to monitor our elections. Never mind that we send representatives regulary around the world to do the very same thing. But Mr Abbot sure stirs up misplaced machismo with his bravado, doesn't he.

    October 25, 2012 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  3. Larry L

    As a Texan who knows the "Tom DeLay Republican Party" of my state I welcome the election monitors! Take one quick look at our dishonest, illegal and gerrymandered voting districts map and you'll know how crooked a state can be! We're bought and paid for by big oil money and Rick Perry is the biggest crook of them all. "Oops!"

    October 25, 2012 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  4. Jack

    Boy, will Limbaugh & Hannity will have a field day with this one; the bubble heads will milk this for everything they can get out of it.

    October 25, 2012 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  5. ironman59

    The far right screams about bringing democracy & christianity to every country in the world. That we "DEMAND" to observe elections all over the world. Yet, when we have to face the same spotlight the far right screams foul. Just like they do everytime they have their actions monitored or questions. It time to simply shut up and let the monitors do what they do all over the world. That is unless TX has something to hide.

    October 25, 2012 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  6. V

    What does Texas has to has to hide? Seems too messed up to me.

    October 25, 2012 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  7. John

    What throws me off about this is that the orders of the federal government supersede all state laws, so if the federal government demands that there be international observers to monitor the election process then they can order the Texan government to do what they please or face punishment from the feds. Texas is a stupid place.

    October 25, 2012 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  8. Reject Repugs

    Shades of Genocide George.......

    October 25, 2012 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  9. Lou Cypher

    The "monitors" are just here for Xmas shopping, they won't be a problem.

    October 25, 2012 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
  10. JPC

    Imagine the uproar (and rightfully so) if, say, Putin or Ahmadinejad tried to pull something like this.

    October 25, 2012 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
  11. JD

    What a joke. International monitors? I agree. With Texas. If anyone American thinks this is ok. You are seriously unstable.

    October 25, 2012 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  12. dywlf

    They have already interfered by questioning the validity and integrity of voter id laws. Also by interjecting their liberal socialist philosphy into our election process. I hope Texas does arrest them if they violate our law, it would be refreshing to see the law upheld for a change..

    October 25, 2012 10:27 pm at 10:27 pm |
  13. Triple A

    Go ahead, mess with Texas.... I'll just stand back and watch.

    October 25, 2012 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  14. Kevin

    Once again there are the Texas republicans, keeping it classy. Is Will Ferrell gonna play this guy, Abbott, in the movie?

    October 25, 2012 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  15. Florida Voter

    Typical for America. We are either unwilling or unable to practice what we preach.

    October 25, 2012 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  16. dvr

    Obama n acorn is pulling no punches

    October 25, 2012 10:32 pm at 10:32 pm |
  17. Xchairman

    Hello, mr. AG. Its not like that. What is transperence since your secretary of state has been going all over the world talking about democracy.

    October 25, 2012 10:32 pm at 10:32 pm |
  18. dfwpike

    The UN is monitoring elections in Texas? Oh please.

    October 25, 2012 10:32 pm at 10:32 pm |
  19. Alice

    Arresting the election observers? What are they, South Sudan?

    October 25, 2012 10:32 pm at 10:32 pm |
  20. JH

    Nice to see Texas acting like Russia and third world pseuod-demoscracies when it comes to having observers during the election. Very nice, indeed!

    October 25, 2012 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm |
  21. bigdakine

    Well, maybe if Texas stopped acting like a third world country, it won't get treated like one.

    October 25, 2012 10:34 pm at 10:34 pm |
  22. drasil52

    Well, well, well. The dems are finally turning the US into another 3rd world country that needs to be monitored by Eurotrash. Congrats libs.

    October 25, 2012 10:35 pm at 10:35 pm |
  23. Anonymous

    Typical GOP BS. What is Abbott's concerns? Anyone should be able to observe the voting process. It appears Abbott has something to hide.

    October 25, 2012 10:35 pm at 10:35 pm |
  24. Yosemite Sam

    way to go Texas Republicans. Poster children for democracy gone wrong.

    October 25, 2012 10:36 pm at 10:36 pm |
  25. cgire

    What is Texas afraid of?

    I was born in Wichita Falls. We used to be the best at everything in Texas, and we weren't ashamed to show off anything we did.

    What happened?

    October 25, 2012 10:37 pm at 10:37 pm |
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