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. texan_man

    "don't mess with texas" is an environmentalist phrase. It's funny when I hear right wing conservatives here in texas use it. heh heh.

    October 25, 2012 10:38 pm at 10:38 pm |
  2. WHY?!!

    well thats not a surprise given how screwed up texas law is. This election is about good vs evil. do you want a party that is limiting the ability food citizens of certain groups to vote? do you want a party that essentially has anarchist views about government?

    October 25, 2012 10:40 pm at 10:40 pm |
  3. supersam

    It's the law of the state,you don't have to accept or like it BUT you must obey it,OSCE.You can try and see what the state gonna do if you violate our law.

    October 25, 2012 10:40 pm at 10:40 pm |
  4. Hadenuffyet

    Sorry , I'm not from Texas but whos' business is it but ours. gtfo...

    October 25, 2012 10:40 pm at 10:40 pm |
  5. Wes Scott

    Texas AG Greg Abbott is a complete idiot! This is a federal election, and state law aside, it is and will be controlled by federal law. Abbott's interference with federal law could land HIM in serious legal trouble.

    October 25, 2012 10:40 pm at 10:40 pm |
  6. nixux

    Think those UN henchmen are about to get a demonstration of what we mean by don't mess with Texas...

    October 25, 2012 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
  7. zx81

    Have something to hide Texas?

    October 25, 2012 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
  8. TexasRules

    "The United States, like all countries in the OSCE, has an obligation to invite ODIHR observers to observe its elections."

    Unless you are Texas! Don't mess with Texas....hahaha.

    October 25, 2012 10:42 pm at 10:42 pm |
  9. tulelakenewtimes

    Sounds like Texas likes voter Id laws but does not want anyone seeing them harrass legal voters.

    October 25, 2012 10:42 pm at 10:42 pm |
  10. gary

    I can see how this would make the good ole boys down in Texas a little nervous.

    October 25, 2012 10:43 pm at 10:43 pm |
  11. BADGUY

    It's funny. Texas will PROBABLY be BLUE within 20 year...DESPITE the current "management's" Voter ID efforts. The "good-ole-boy" system will FINALLY be GONE in Texas! Beside the "bad taste in my mouth" from TWO work periods IN TEXAS, I'm almost tempted to MOVE BACK there just to help it MOVE BLUE!

    October 25, 2012 10:44 pm at 10:44 pm |
  12. nixux

    Think those UN Henchmen are about to get a demonstration of what we mean by "don't mess with Texas". It's also going to be interesting to see what happens in the elections if the Obama administration allies itself with the UN on this one...

    October 25, 2012 10:44 pm at 10:44 pm |
  13. drasil52

    Could someone logically explain to me why voter ID laws are a bad idea? I really don't get it. I have a voter registration card that I received after I registered to vote (with valid proof of being in the country legally and residency at the DMV.) I am a Missouri resident. In order to receive a drivers license in MO you have to have a birth certificate and proof of residency. Has anyone born in the US in the last 50 years or so
    not had a birth certificate issued? This isn't the beginning of the 20th century anymore. Nowadays, if you don't have a birth certificate, that means you probably weren't born in this country.

    October 25, 2012 10:44 pm at 10:44 pm |
  14. Jean Sartre

    Only from the dumbest, state in the union, which keeps threatening to secede... will you, please?

    Send Rick Perry to Cuba and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott to Iran...

    October 25, 2012 10:44 pm at 10:44 pm |
  15. Wes Scott

    Considering that many of the electronic voting machines being used in Texas are owned by Hart Intercivic, a company in which Mitt Romney's son Tagg is a major shareholder, and that Hart machines have been proven and demonstrated to be easily hacked to produce false results with no paper audit trail, it is imperative that somebody monitors the electoral process in Texas, as well as Ohio and other states where Hart Intercivic voting machines are being used.

    October 25, 2012 10:44 pm at 10:44 pm |
  16. Kent

    Chill Texans! The votes are going to be counted in Spain anyway!!

    October 25, 2012 10:46 pm at 10:46 pm |
  17. LastSaneMan

    Perhaps thou protesteth too much.

    October 25, 2012 10:46 pm at 10:46 pm |
  18. David

    Ha! What a joke! The liberal UN is all in a tussy over laws they don't understand. The voter ID laws are designed to keep non-citizens from voting...that's it...that's all. Everyone else is allowed to vote. Its not like having an ID is an inappropriate request for an American citizen to bring to the polling station. If you're legal, what do you have to worry about? Nothing!

    October 25, 2012 10:48 pm at 10:48 pm |
  19. Jwrenn

    Great now Texas will be US version of Iran...no inspectors allowed, but we swear there is nothing going on. I mean they were originally invited by the Republicans and now Texas a very pro republican state won't allow it. Guess even Texas hates Bush's ideas now.

    October 25, 2012 10:48 pm at 10:48 pm |
  20. Duh

    Go Texas!!

    October 25, 2012 10:50 pm at 10:50 pm |
  21. bckerr

    Nothing to fear Republicans are afraid for the observers catching fraud, plain and simple. Much like many Republicans this year have been caught red handed doing voter fraud already.

    October 25, 2012 10:51 pm at 10:51 pm |
  22. Aster L

    We shouldn't expect a double standard when it comes to election transparency. How can America be an example of open democracy while holding a view that our own elections can not withstand any scrutiny? The only reason to block observers is if you have something crooked to hide.

    October 25, 2012 10:53 pm at 10:53 pm |
  23. Anonymous

    What does the greatest democrcy on the planet have to fear from any observer.If obama was a white man,the only vote those three clowns would get are clowns like them selves.

    October 25, 2012 10:53 pm at 10:53 pm |
  24. Colonel Darkstone

    What are the folks in Texas afraid of? What do they fear will be seen?

    October 25, 2012 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm |
  25. Kona

    Oh, it's ok when it's someone else's elections getting monitored, but there ain't no stinkin' voter suppression going on in these here states! Yee-haw!

    October 25, 2012 10:55 pm at 10:55 pm |
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