AUSTIN, TX – As Off the Grid News reported earlier this week, some states are not welcoming the presence of United Nations Election Day observers. Texas’ Attorney General issued a warning yesterday that international observers who approach polling stations in the Lone Star state are risking criminal prosecution.
“The threat of criminal sanctions … is unacceptable,” said Janez Lenarcic, the Slovenian diplomat who heads the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), a part of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
“The United States, like all countries in the OSCE, has an obligation to invite ODIHR observers to observe its elections,” he said in a statement. It added that he “shared his concerns in a letter” to Secretary of State Clinton.
Lenarcic’s reports came in response to a letter sent by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott to the ODIHR earlier this week informing it that “groups and individuals from outside the United States are not allowed to influence or interfere with the election process in Texas.”
“The OSCE’s representatives are not authorized by Texas law to enter a polling place,” Abbott wrote. ‘It may be a criminal offense for OSCE’s representatives to maintain a presence within 100 feet of a polling place’s entrance. Failure to comply with these requirements could subject the OSCE’s representatives to criminal prosecution for violating state law.”
A growing number on the campaign trail are joining Texas in its protest to the election monitoring. Rep. Connie Mack (Rep-FL), who is running for a seat in the U.S. Senate, said on Monday, “Every American should be outraged by this news.” He added that international monitoring of elections is “usually reserved for third-world countries, banana republics and fledgling democracies. The only ones who should ever oversee American elections are Americans.”
Alabama’s State Speaker of the House, Mike Hubbard, announced plans to introduce legislation that would bar non-U.S. citizens from observing elections in the state in future. Hubbard said, “If you can’t participate in an election in the United States, and if you can’t cast a vote in the United States, you really have no business serving as a poll watcher in an election being held in the United States.”
The OSCE plans to focus its monitoring on voter-identification laws, a much politicized subject in many of states. Groups such as the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the NAACP publicly urged the observers to deploy its monitors in states where they contend there is “a coordinated political effort to disenfranchise millions of Americans – particularly traditionally disenfranchised groups like minorities, low-income people, women, young people, persons with disabilities, and the elderly.”
Texas AG Abbott’s response to such allegations was to the point: “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.”
“If OSCE members want to learn more about our election processes so they can improve their own democratic systems,” said Abbott, “we welcome the opportunity to discuss the measures Texas has implemented to protect the integrity of elections. However, groups and individuals from outside the United States are not allowed to influence or interfere with the election process in Texas.”
Janez Lenarcic, director of the OSCE Europe Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, denied that his observers planned to interfere. “[They] are required to remain strictly impartial and not to intervene in the voting process in any way,” he said. “They are in the United States to observe these elections, not to interfere in them.”
Other UN observers will also be present in some states apart from the mission of the OSCE. The organization’s Parliamentary Assembly, comprising legislators from its member states, will deploy more than 100 monitors with a focus on swing states. The Moscow Times reported this week that 10 Russian lawmakers are among them.
The OSCE is an organization of 56 member nations in Europe, Central Asia and North America, focused on human rights and security and has been invited to observe U.S. elections since 2004. One clause of their charter calls for “free elections that will be held at reasonable intervals by secret ballot or by equivalent free voting procedure, under conditions which ensure in practice the free expression of the opinion of the electors in the choice of their representatives.”
It hasn’t passed the notice of many that one quarter of the UN observers come from former Soviet bloc and Eastern European nations that do not adhere to their own charter. A number of these nations do not hold secret balloted elections on a regular basis in a free voting environment.
But to the AG of Texas that is all beside the point. To him and others this is an issue of national and state sovereignty. It is a matter of the rule of law.
©2012 Off the Grid News