Where “observing” also means “interferring” foreign election observers under threat of criminal sanctions

The Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is the world’s largest regional security organization with 56 participating states from Europe, Central Asia and North America. The member states include the United States.  OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) is conducting a limited election observation mission in the United States for the 6 November 2012 general elections. According to the OSCE, this is the sixth US elections the ODIHR has observed, without incident, since 2002 (wait until you hear about Texas). They also observed most recently the 2010 mid-term elections. Our US Mission to the OSCE extended an official invitation.  Similar invitations must have been extended in the past since the OSCE has observed elections in the United States in the last ten years.

Below via the US Mission to the OSCE:

The United States supports the work of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR). ODIHR’s election observation methodology remains the standard for election monitoring around the world. The U.S. also supports ODIHR’s programs that increase transparency in the democratic process, encourage the rule of law, and develop a democratic culture by facilitating participation in the policy-making process.

The observation mission is headed by Ambassador Daan Everts of the Netherlands.  The core team members come from the UK, Germany, the Russian Federation, Greece, Italy, France, Netherlands, Serbia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and Poland.  Forty-four long-term observers from member states arrived in the US in early October and has been deployed in teams of two throughout the country.

The Dallas Observer reports that it is “not actually clear if monitors will be placed in Texas, though it seems likely, given our state’s enthusiasm for voter ID laws.”

But if they are — Texas is apparently ready for them.

Via the Dallas Observer:

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott is threatening to bring criminal charges against European election observers who may be monitoring the general election process in Texas.

His always-entertaining Twitter feed suggests he would also be willing to throttle them with his bare hands. “UN poll watchers can’t interfere w/ Texas elections,” he tweeted yesterday. “I’ll bring criminal charges if needed. Official letter posted soon.” His hashtag added: #comeandtakeit. Delightful.

The AG’s letter with the following warning is now posted here:

The OSCE’s representatives are not authorized by Texas law to enter a polling place. 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.

And @GovernorPerry cheers:

No UN monitors/inspectors will be part of any TX election process; I commend @TXsecofstate for swift action to clarify issue.

Actually, these are not UN monitors; OSCE is an observer at UNGA and considers the UN its primary partner but is not the UN.

Now — are our Texas folks suggesting that in the very act of watching, the observers affect the observed reality? That these observers can affect these elections?  If true, that’s like foxtrot bizarre!  How did these election observers interfere in the last five elections they’ve observed in the United States?

Maybe that’s the October Surprise? Then maybe we can do recounts from all those five elections instead of suffering through Da Donald and Gloria’s hair show?

Meanwhile, over in Warsaw (Poland, not Indiana) Ambassador Janez Lenarčič, the Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), expressed his grave concern over the threat of criminal prosecution of OSCE/ODIHR election observers and reportedly wrote a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with the following emphasis:

“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.”

“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.”

You think Ambassador Lenarčič is saying that unless you’re a quantum theorist, observe and interfere are two different things?

ODIHR is scheduled to release an interim report after the election and a formal report a couple of months after their observation mission.

In its latest update, ODIHR reports:

Some OSCE/ODIHR LEOM interlocutors stated that certain issues in administering elections stem from the fact that states cannot obligate the counties to follow some federal regulations. For example, some jurisdictions failed to send ballots to out-of-country voters 45 days before election day, as required by the Military and Overseas Voting Empowerment (MOVE) Act.7 The Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP), administered by the Department of Defense, reported to the OSCE/ODIHR LEOM that they are working with state election officials to introduce new state regulations that will require counties to adhere to all provisions of MOVE.

Political advertising continued being a major source for campaigning with large sums of money spent on TV advertisements. Independent organizations have been particularly active in political advertising and, in this respect, the impact of Super PACs and so-called Section 501(c)18 organizations on the outcome of primary and general elections is being questioned by OSCE/ODIHR LEOM interlocutors across the political spectrum. According to the data reported so far to the FEC, by mid-October, Super PACs have spent over USD 350 million in political advertising in the 2012 primary and general election cycle, while political parties have spent only USD 150 million. This excludes spending by 501(c) organizations, which are not reported to the FEC. The majority of election advertising in this election cycle placed on TV by candidates, parties, and independent groups has been negative.

Stop laughing over there.  So far, nothing there on Texas’ bright stars.  And no one has been hauled off as criminals for staring at voters casting their ballots. Well, not yet, anyways …

… for now just enjoy a photo of  US Ambassador Anne Patterson observing the polling station in Giza, Egypt in the 2011 elections.

 

 

 

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6 responses

  1. And for what reason are the OSCE observers here? Is there some problem that needs to be observed? Or is it just a boondoggle for bureaucrats who want a free vacation?

    Would it not be a better use of resources for the OSCE bureaucrats to be deployed to Iraq, Iran, Mali, or other Third World country with actual problems with its elections?

    And I will bet that these OSCE observers will not be interested in vote fraud by Demoncrats. If they were really concerned with fraud in elections perhaps they should check out East St. Louis and Chicago.

    • Iraq, Iran, Mali and various Third World countries are not members of OSCE, but the United States is, as are most of the nations of Europe. Other members have agreed to let us observe their elections, and we have agreed that OSCE can observe ours. For example, during last Sunday’s elections in Ukraine, U.S. Congressman David Dreier (R – CA) led the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Delegation that was monitoring the elections there. It would be hypocritical for us to deny election observers here when we are so active in observing elections in other countries. OSCE doesn’t send a lot of observers to the U.S. elections, but they do spread out, and there is no Republican or Democratic bias.

  2. As a U.S. diplomat, I supported the activities of OSCE/ODIHR when they were observing elections in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine from 2000 until 2008, and plenty of Americans participated in these observation missions. None of these countries liked being observed, for obvious reasons, but they glumly complied in the end. These same efforts were hailed at the time by U.S. lawmakers and various American politicians as a good thing since they supported the spread of democracy and promoted free and fair elections.

    It is ironic, therefore, that when ODIHR tries to observe elections in the U.S., some view it as foreign interference, and even make threats against the observers. Hypocrisy and ignorance go hand in hand, sometimes. If our elections are truly free and fair, we have nothing to fear, but maybe there’s the rub. Texas, after all, is still under Department of Justice supervision under the Voting Rights Act because of its previous acts of discrimination against minority voters.

  3. “Now — are our Texas folks suggesting that in the very act of watching, the observers affect the observed reality? That these observers can affect these elections?”

    Maybe they’re quantum elections?

    I love Texas, I really do, but things like this make me embarrassed for my state.