Texas, international election monitors face off
October 25th, 2012
06:31 PM ET

Texas, international election monitors face off

By Elise Labott

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.

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."

soundoff (57 Responses)
  1. Law Practice Attorneys

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    August 13, 2013 at 7:27 pm | Reply
  2. icons archive

    It was specially registered at a forum to participate in discussion of this question.

    November 4, 2012 at 3:43 am | Reply
  3. Thee Time

    Texas is a key state with citizens whose power extends far beyond its borders. Although chances are it will vote republican irregardless of Mitt's wobbly and changing economic and foreign policies, it still needs to be monitored. Please someone tell those against the election monitoring by OSCE that it is very much an organisation the US relies on also to monitor elections in foreign countries and normally believe their reports.

    November 1, 2012 at 8:00 am | Reply
  4. Expat

    I don't see the problem after all it was a Texan and a republican that invited them in a first place back in 2002.

    October 29, 2012 at 3:57 am | Reply
  5. eqJustice

    Texas, isn't it obvious that you are one of the key states in the Union. So, what gives? Do you really think the Evil boogeymen from the UN are going to steal the election? Please, don't let a few zealots take you off into the weeds. That never works out well, never. You're Texas, it's a beautiful place where you are free, independent, prosperous and for the most part the people I have met there and from there are intelligent, thoughtful and generally pretty nice. Whether you like it or not you are helping to set an example for the US and the rest of the world.

    October 28, 2012 at 10:43 am | Reply
  6. Sean


    October 28, 2012 at 6:15 am | Reply
  7. mipolitic

    The left wing fling is another way of saying , TELL PUTIN I WILL BE MORE FLEXIBLE !

    Putin rules in the UN as Hillary & obama dance to his tune

    October 28, 2012 at 2:10 am | Reply
  8. cindy

    As usual, our dingleberry governor Perry is making Texas look bad once again. Texas has nothing to hide, why is he acting guilty? We should be setting an example for the rest of the world. We want this organization sent into other countries and received warmly. Why is it a problem here? Perry only works for his interest, so follow the money. Somewhere, somehow, he's either doing something wrong, or he's protecting financial interests. He only governs by what benefits him.

    October 27, 2012 at 11:43 am | Reply
    • Mary-Anne

      Do you really think monitors from non democratic countries add to the integrity of voting? While stories about buying votes for a bottle of vodka exist, do you really believe these people are here for ANY reason but to make trouble?

      I for one am tired of countries ruled by despots having the gall to critize democratic (however imperfect) countries. Let them clean up their own act first.
      You tell 'em Perry
      Don't mess with Texas!

      October 27, 2012 at 7:24 pm | Reply
      • S1N

        Don't mess with Texas? Don't make me laugh. The vast majority of you were tough talking pansies who ran away crying as soon as "the other guy" had a gun too.

        October 28, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
  9. lovemygirl

    If anyone thnks we need outside observers then please move. I love Texans, they tell it like it is.

    October 27, 2012 at 6:14 am | Reply
  10. average joe

    It would not bother me to have international monitors randomly pick a dozen of these electronic voting machines take them apart and see that they are working .

    October 27, 2012 at 4:20 am | Reply
  11. Fact Feed

    For those who live outside U.S. this may seem confusing. Here's a brief history of the problem.

    Texas is in the Deep South where racism & slavery were highly profitable BEFORE they lost the Civil War which ended slavery. The Deep South, esp Texas, where racial hatred and bigotry has historically persisted ('thrived') - still harbor long-standing resentment (hatred) at having lost the war and thus having lost the chance to legitimize their racist bigotry - and for having lost the coveted golden opportunity to exploit the labor of others (slaves) while stealing the fruits of THEIR labor.

    This Deep South racist hatred and bigotry persists to this day, and not that long ago they (Dallas, TX) assasinated a U.S. President (John F. Kennedy), merely because he did not share their right-wing Republican Tea Party Deep South racist hatred and bigoted political view.

    Needless to say, many of these Deep South racist hate-mongers and bigots profoundly despise the current BLACK President - and if they can't hang him from a tree wild-west style, they are bent on finding some other way to remove him from office. They historically have used Jim Crow laws to disenfranchise voters who would, otherwise, have voted against such a racist political agenda. Hence we need Intn'l election observers in Texas.

    October 26, 2012 at 6:56 pm | Reply
    • Jodi in Texas

      give me a break. dems are just using this tactic to muddy the waters and create a smoke screen. also I fully see this as the foreshadowing of their protests when Romney wins the election. Get ready for the recount.

      October 27, 2012 at 9:51 am | Reply
    • Liz

      Wow! Thanks "Fact Feed" for the "history lesson". You've enlightened all of us!

      I think you are the one in need a a history lesson and a sense of reality. The Civil War was 150 years ago. I think Texas, which is one of the most diverse states in the Union, has progressed since then. The city of Houston is consistantly rated as one of the best cities for African-Americans to live and prosper, the state welcomes more immigrants from across the globe than any other, and the state consistantly opens its arms to Louisiana evacuees during hurricanes and other natural disasters (i.e. Katrina). Obviously, you (Fact Feed) have not....stop living in the past! Also, just to set the record straight....the city of Dallas, TX did not assissinate JFK, the Republican Tea Party was not in existence then, and Jim Crow Laws have been outlawed for the past 50 years. It clear that you are living with some bitterness and unable to let go of the past.

      October 28, 2012 at 5:43 pm | Reply
  12. Nutpumpkin

    I for one would just like to hear one of the canadates answer a question!

    October 26, 2012 at 10:22 am | Reply
  13. Ger Republikins

    wii don ned eny yuropeeins 2 tel uz wut 2 du. wii kin vot eny whey wii wunt 2. wii kin vot fer republikins cuz wii don wunt r taxiz 2 bii razd neder. demokrates unly wunt 2 raz taxiz fer skools n stuf. wii kin bii hom skoold lyk wii r dun sowt. wii don ned fer demokrates 2 tayk whey r gunz n jezuz neder. mi hous jus burnd don butt mi whellz r stil ok. ger republikins!!!!!!!!!!

    October 26, 2012 at 9:48 am | Reply
  14. ha

    We better be concerned of what these demorats have up they're sleeve- when it comes to the question of voter fraud. Obama, comes from a thuggish clan like group of chicago politicians- this would be right up his ally. Don't put anything past these people!

    October 26, 2012 at 9:22 am | Reply
    • Mike

      Please spare me. The US, which never tires of presenting itself as "the world's leading democracy" has become a sick joke in this regard, with tainted elections in 1876, 1960, 2000 and (probably) in 2004, as well. Impartial, non-American observers are – unfortunately – very much needed.

      October 26, 2012 at 4:00 pm | Reply
  15. Tad Pole

    I don't see how having someone outside the process in for credibility can be a bad thing.

    October 26, 2012 at 7:31 am | Reply
  16. trex

    ......Just goes to show that the rest of the WORLD knows that W stole the election.................

    October 26, 2012 at 7:29 am | Reply
    • John Q Public

      Wrong, it's about Soro's Open Borders plan and subjugating us under the UN, which has been Obama's and Hilary's plan and desire from the beginning.

      October 26, 2012 at 1:24 pm | Reply
  17. Old Pogi

    Hopefully the team will come across a "uniformed" Black Panther carrying a baton. It wasn't that long ago when it occured at a polling station.

    October 26, 2012 at 7:07 am | Reply
  18. JB

    "The compromising our of systems and beliefs ..." Are you serious? Someone just watching someone vote compromises your systems and beliefs?The Taxas Attorney-General's letter is appalling – it's a blatant knee-jerk and really inappropriate reaction to a very simple and standard process. I'm a New Zealander and the amount of ducking and diving of your candidates, mistruths (frequent), downright lies (sometimes), and basic blind loyalty and ideology is a bigger threat to the 'system and values' you speak so highly of than someone from another country watching you guys vote! Just what on earth are you afraid of?

    October 26, 2012 at 6:36 am | Reply
    • StanCalif

      As a former Texan, I can assure you that votng irregularities are common! Ballot boxes are well known to disappear! Remember the LBJ scandal of "missing ballot boxes"? Long ago, yes, but nothing changes in Texas!

      October 26, 2012 at 7:32 am | Reply
    • Old Pogi

      I can appreciate your comment. The displeasure expressed by the Texas Attorney General seems to be out of place. I might have expected from some states, but not Texas. Looks like he would have welcomed it.

      October 26, 2012 at 7:33 am | Reply
  19. Ooh Sad

    By allowing election monitors in, it is good for democracy and will give your elections credibility.

    October 26, 2012 at 5:20 am | Reply
  20. RQ

    I still want to see 10 years of Romney tax returns.

    October 26, 2012 at 5:19 am | Reply
  21. Pat

    I guess Texas is making such a fuss because they have something to hide. Surprised?

    October 26, 2012 at 4:15 am | Reply
  22. Ooh Sad

    Texas you need observers more than any state! Remember you have a far bit of individuals who are very powerful and notorius for living life by their own rules. Above all America probably has more influence than any country in the world, so we have to keep a very sharp eye on what goes on there. In all likelihood Romney is gonna win TX despite his unclear economic plan and uncertain nature when it comes to foreign policy and when to war, but you need observers. Richard S Patterson has said a very valid point that reminds me of the hotly contested 2000 presidential election. By the way the USA is very much involved in foreign power struggles, including elections, its hands on actually

    October 26, 2012 at 3:23 am | Reply
    • me

      seems to me florida might top the list of states that need observers

      October 26, 2012 at 4:30 am | Reply
  23. RQ

    Nothing is too low for a Republican win.

    October 26, 2012 at 12:57 am | Reply
    • John Q Public

      You got the wrong party on that one. Republicans aren't the ones with dead people and illegal aliens voting.

      October 26, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Reply
  24. Sigh

    You have to wonder if any of these Texans know that their country is a member of the OSCE...

    October 25, 2012 at 10:50 pm | Reply
  25. Blues bro

    This is wrong. I am bothered by the thought of non US persons having anything to do with our sacred electoral process. Don't even try to tell me that my objection to this makes me an uneducated redneck or that by not engaging in this process opens the elections to fraud. The compromising our of systems and beliefs are leading this country to a form of European mediocrity.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:31 pm | Reply
    • octopus

      "...a form of European mediocrity"

      well maybe you are an uneducated redneck.

      October 26, 2012 at 4:30 am | Reply
      • RQ

        Yeah, the crooked Republicans can do a better job at election oversight any day.

        October 26, 2012 at 5:15 am |
    • Tad Pole

      I firmly believe that if you ascribe to be a democracy, then you most certainly can allow others to view the process in action. The entire basis of democracy is fairness. To feel threatened in any way that some organisation simply wants to view your electoral process implies that it is in some way unfair. Mind you, these are observers, and regardless of what they would observe, they cannont nor would take any actions to change it.

      October 26, 2012 at 7:35 am | Reply
  26. marvin irby

    i'm proud to be a texan !!!!! we do notneed these bone heads watching over us . i for one will be there with my voter registration card and drivers licens in hand.

    October 25, 2012 at 8:58 pm | Reply
    • Kint

      They're not there to watch over you. They're just there to *observe*.

      October 26, 2012 at 5:31 am | Reply
  27. Richard S Patterson, Attorney

    Texas does need monitoring of voting officials, at least in Houston, Harris County, Texas. My daughter, a registered Democrat and who will be in Cambridge, England this year, has made, for over a month, at least three requests for an absentee ballot (by fax, online and otherwise) and has yet to receive one (or any acknowledgement) from the office of the new Republican clerk. Needless to say, she never had this problem before, when the clerk's office was run by a Democrat.

    October 25, 2012 at 7:44 pm | Reply
    • me

      in order to qualify for an absentee ballot she had to register locally as being an absentee voter before requesting an absentee ballot... she also had to submit a federal post card application... she still has the option of using the federal emergency ballot which is issued less than 30 days before an election... expat for over ten years

      October 26, 2012 at 4:40 am | Reply
  28. crescentaluna

    Way to go, Texas ... Live up to every stereotype of low-IQ rednecks who have no conception of the world they live in. And who don't want to engage with reality in any way, shape or form. Don't want anyone watching when you steal the election, hmmm? You know, the rest of the country which YOU ARE A PART OF actually would prefer an honest election thank you very much. Sheesh.

    October 25, 2012 at 7:32 pm | Reply
    • Tad Pole

      It baffles me as well. I would rather have an honest election and have my party lose, than a dishonest one where my party won. The concept of democracy is really quite good, and I wish more people from both sides would defend it. Give the people informed, unbiased, honest information, and then let each person have one vote. I can't remember the last time I heard two politicians DISCUSS an issue.

      October 26, 2012 at 7:38 am | Reply
  29. get the un out

    you tell em texas!....

    October 25, 2012 at 7:15 pm | Reply

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