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In fact, most of them are already here.  

Since 2002, in compliance with our international obligations under the 1990 Copenhagen Agreement of the Organisation for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE), the United States has welcomed international observers to our national elections, and this year is no exception.  

Operating under the organizational auspices of OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), a Limited Election Observation Mission has been operating from offices in Washington, D.C. since early October, with a Core Team of 13 experts from 10 OSCE participating States.  There are also 44 Long-Term Observers, from 18 countries including Germany, the UK, Denmark, Switzerland and France among others, deployed in teams of two around the country to cover some 40 states.  Closer to Election Day, legislators and Members of Parliament from OSCE states will also come to observe the United States elections under the same organization.

However, as readers may be aware, Texas A-G Greg Abbott has written a blustery letter to the Head of the Mission, Netherlands Ambassador Daan Everts, stating that

If OSCE members want to learn more about our election processes so they can improve their own democratic systems, 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.

The A-G goes on to threaten the observers:

This State has robust election laws that were carefully crafted to protect the integrity of our election system.  All persons — including persons connected with OSCE — are required to comply with these laws.  

Elections and election observation are regulated by state law. The Texas Election Code governs anyone who participates in Texas elections — including representatives of the OSCE.  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.

Of course, the observers have no intention of interfering with the elections, nor will they attempt to enter any place where they are not welcome.  This election observation is a well-defined, highly structured process, following well-established procedures.  The ODIHR Election Observation Handbook, first published in 1996, is now in its Sixth Edition.  (ODIHR has also published a Handbook for Long-Term Observers, a Handbook for the Observation of Voter Registration, a Handbook on Media Monitoring for Election Observation Missions, and Guidelines for Political Party Registration, among many other texts on election processes.)

In response to the letter from A-G Abbott, ODIHR’s Director, Ambassador Janez Lenarčič of Slovenia expressed his grave concern today over the threat of criminal prosecution of OSCE/ODIHR election observers.  The ODIHR Director also stressed that any concerns or reports that the election observers intended to influence or interfere with the election process were groundless. He underlined that OSCE/ODIHR election observers adhere to all national laws and regulations, as well as a strict code of conduct.

“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.”
As readers can easily imagine, Fox News has already started covering the story, in its own inimitable way, beginning with an interview with Catherine Englebrecht of “True the Vote.”  I won't link to the clip; you can imagine where that conversation went.  I have not seen this covered elsewhere, but I am sure it will be, and soon.

Full Disclosure:  I was Deputy Director of ODIHR for three years, and I have observed over a dozen elections in Eastern Europe and Central Asia with ODIHR, most recently the September 23 Parliamentary Elections in Belarus.  Whenever the western media, including Fox, report that “International observers found elections in XYZ to fall short of democratic standards,” they are usually citing ODIHR’s efforts.  

Sauce for the Goose, Sauce for the Gander?

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (29+ / 0-)

    "Y'know what intelligent people call someone who runs around saying NO to everything all the time? A three-year-old who needs a nap." BiPM

    by stevenwag on Wed Oct 24, 2012 at 10:43:35 AM PDT

  •  Greg Abbott is (14+ / 0-)

    a posturing fool who wants to be Governor in the worst possible way and every day gets up committed to furthering that goal.

    "At least we ain’t Lazarus and had to think twice about dying" - Ray Wylie Hubbard

    by Wordsinthewind on Wed Oct 24, 2012 at 10:53:20 AM PDT

  •  I'm glad we have international observers here (6+ / 0-)

    At a minimum, there have been plenty of shenanigans in each of the last three Presidential elections and this one bids fair to top them.

    Here's Charles Pierce from this afternoon:

    But there is even more documentary evidence that voting machines are inexcusably easy to finesse and finagle, and not all of it comes out of the wilder shebeens along the docks of Blogistan, either. In the current issue of Harper's, Victoria Collier has a broad and extremely useful — to say nothing of its being utterly depressing — survey of the state of mechanized electoral chicanery. (Among other things, Collier makes a solid case that Ohio got stolen out from under John Kerry in 2004.) In it, she cites critical studies of voting machines done not by bloggers with their hair on fire but, rather, by places like the Brennan Center and Johns Hopkins University.

    What I think we're seeing here from my man Chuck, I fear, is not so much careful journalism as it is the will not to believe. He has spent so much time on the road, crunching numbers and talking to campaign operatives, that he has become wholly invested in the Exceptionalist notion that the country knows better than any other how to run a national election. This is, of course, nonsense, and I fear that events on November 6 will bear me out on this. And, given that there is overwhelming evidence of a national campaign to suppress the potential vote through the law, why should be not believe in a parallel effort to influence votes after they are cast? Why should we believe that the national campaign to rig an election is purely legal, and not technological? The only reason is that we don't want to believe it.

    "The smartest man in the room is not always right." -Richard Holbrooke

    by Demi Moaned on Wed Oct 24, 2012 at 10:56:50 AM PDT

  •  that letter from Abbott (9+ / 0-)

    could just as well have been written by some third world despot, bent on stealing an election..

    "Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government" T. Jefferson

    by azureblue on Wed Oct 24, 2012 at 10:58:31 AM PDT

  •  & wouldn't be refused entry be a red flag (6+ / 0-)

    something an Election Observer would report

    not sure if I'm wording my thoughts correctly

    in other words, election observers being barred access to watch in TX would report that and note it is a sure sign of questionable election issues

    •  Well, Observers respect local laws, (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DEMonrat ankle biter

      so not being allowed in where the law precludes outsiders is nothing surprising.  

      What would be surprising would be if the state law allowed observers (like in Missouri, South Dakota, North Dakota, New Mexico, and D.C.) but the precinct captain or whoever blocked them.  

      But most states have laws that are at best unclear on the subject, or at worst explicitly bar outsiders.  Like Texas.

      "Y'know what intelligent people call someone who runs around saying NO to everything all the time? A three-year-old who needs a nap." BiPM

      by stevenwag on Wed Oct 24, 2012 at 12:46:40 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I know they don't have them & I'd be willing (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Wordsinthewind, mkoz, lgmcp, stevenwag

    to chip in a few bucks for some baby blue helmets or berets for those fine folks.

    btw, can we charter a black helicopter for them too?

    Thanks for your work stevenwag Abbott is worse than your average teabagger because I think he actually does know better.  

  •  "It may be a criminal offense" (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    entrelac, stevenwag
    It may be a criminal offense for OSCE’s representatives to maintain a presence within 100 feet of a polling place’s entrance.
    Does Greg Abbott not know the law? He could look it up! As AG, he must have recourse to some materials or at least a Library.


    This is a thinly veiled attempt to intimidate. Pathetic chickenshit bullies. It's what they do. It's all they know

    I'm going to vote for the human being ~ericinca

    by denig on Wed Oct 24, 2012 at 11:52:17 AM PDT

    •  I didn't think it necessary to fully parse (0+ / 0-)

      that sentence.  

      Lots of huffing and puffing.

      "Y'know what intelligent people call someone who runs around saying NO to everything all the time? A three-year-old who needs a nap." BiPM

      by stevenwag on Wed Oct 24, 2012 at 12:47:42 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  IANAL, but here is the TX Election Code: (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DRo, PDiddie

    Ch. 33 "Observers"

    Sec. 33.001.  WATCHER DEFINED.  In this code, "watcher" means a person appointed under this subchapter to observe the conduct of an election on behalf of a candidate, a political party, or the proponents or opponents of a measure.
    Acts 1985, 69th Leg., ch. 211, Sec. 1, eff. Jan. 1, 1986.
    Now, the gist is that a "Watcher", as defined, is invited by the candidate, party, or pros/cons of a measure.  They must be a registered voter in the county or other jurisdiction in which the election is held.  They must also be identified, cerified, and sign an oath, and are only allowed to observe in the polling place.  They are to have no communication with voters, poll clerks, or anyone else, except to speak to the presiding electiion judge in the polling place when they have a question or comment to make.  They must leave the pollling place to telephone, and have further restrictions on staying a minimum amount of time, etc.  Other observers/inspectors permitted by law in Texas are Secretary of State-designated Inspectors, and Federal DoJ inspectors.

    I hate to say it, but Mr. Abbott may be legally correct.

    I just finished my Dallas County election judge training this past weekend.  My training was with the new Elections Administrator herself, appointed by our Democratic-majority County Commissioners.  I will be an Alternate Election Judge (the party which had the most votes in the last governor race gets to appoint its precinct Election Judge, and Rick Perry is Governor.  The other party appoints the Alternate).  

    I just called the County Elections Department to get a straight answer, and the person I spoke with (I think I may have been referred to the Legal Dept.) said that all of the above was true, and that the OSCE observers would not enter and would not be allowed inside the polling places.  They are invited to observe from outside the polling place (and the 100 foot distance?  I dunno).

    So, unless a candidate or the GOP asks, certifies and gets the True the Vote folks inside as official poll watchers, it should only be voters and workers inside the polling place, and any other invited, ceritfied/sworn poll wathers.  It looks like this would not include OSCE observers, unless they are dual nationals with voting rights in Texas.  Texas law does not permit cell phones within 100 feet of the entrance, and prominent signs are posted telling you to turn them off.  Same for the watchers.

    According to press accounts, other states have explicit provision under state law for international observers:

    Access of international observers during voting is explicitly allowed in some states such as Missouri, South Dakota, North Dakota and New Mexico.

    Now, the TX SoS, Hope Andrade, says the following:

    Andrade repeats Abbott's assertion that that the OSCE has no jurisdiction over Texas elections, but adds that she is certain the OSCE “does not intent to allow its organization and this observation program to be portrayed as an ‘inspection’ or ‘monitoring.’”

    In an email to county election officials, Keith Ingram, the state's director of elections, said he has spoken to the observers and they understood what they could do on their visit.

    “I have specifically informed the Texas team that Chapter 61 of the Texas Election Code would not allow them into actual polling places, and they understood this limitation,” he wrote. “Other than that, I told them that we are ready to answer any questions they may have.  If you have any specific concerns or questions, please let me know.”

    Just to be thorough, Chapter 61 of the Texas Election Code is here:

    CHAPTER 61. CONDUCT OF VOTING GENERALLYSUBCHAPTER A. GENERAL PROVISIONSSec. 61.001.  BYSTANDERS EXCLUDED;  UNLAWFUL PRESENCE OF CANDIDATE.  (a)  Except as permitted by this code, a person may not be in the polling place from the time the presiding judge arrives there on election day to make the preliminary arrangements until the precinct returns have been certified and the election records have been assembled for distribution following the election.
    . . .
    Sec. 61.003.  ELECTIONEERING AND LOITERING NEAR POLLING PLACE PROHIBITED.  (a)  A person commits an offense if, during the voting period and within 100 feet of an outside door through which a voter may enter the building in which a polling place is located, the person:(1)  loiters;  or(2)  electioneers for or against any candidate, measure, or political party.(b)  In this section, "voting period" means the period beginning when the polls open for voting and ending when the polls close or the last voter has voted, whichever is later.(c)  An offense under this section is a Class C misdemeanor.
    Acts 1985, 69th Leg., ch. 211, Sec. 1, eff. Jan. 1, 1986.
    So, it sounds like although Abbott is being a blowhard and jerk (what's new?), he is also legally correct about the provisions of the Texas Election Code.  There is no provision for non-candidate/part watchers inside poling places.

    As I said, IANAL.  Does the U.N. or any treaty obligations trump Texas election law?  I dunno.  It sure makes us look like we are hiding something, and this strict interpretation seems a bt uninviting to open and transparent elections.  Mebbe we need more watchers in every precinct.

    I am open to discuss, cuss, dispute, or correct, or shrug about what I don't know.

    I'm part of the "bedwetting bunch of website Democrat base people (DKos)." - Rush Limbaugh, 10/16/2012 Torture is Wrong! We live near W so you don't have to. Send love.

    by tom 47 on Wed Oct 24, 2012 at 01:10:47 PM PDT

    •  Thanks for this. You may not be a lawyer, (0+ / 0-)

      but you sure write (and research) like one.

      The bottom line is that observers are only to observe, they never interfere (the Code of Conduct is pretty explicit on that), and they would not try to go where they are not wanted.

      But even this hullabaloo has exposed some hitherto unknown varmits lurking under previously-unturned rocks...

      It's all an educational process.  And yes, the whole world IS watching...

      "Y'know what intelligent people call someone who runs around saying NO to everything all the time? A three-year-old who needs a nap." BiPM

      by stevenwag on Wed Oct 24, 2012 at 02:41:05 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Well, thanks. It's just a broad, liberal arts (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        htowngenie, stevenwag

        education, and knowing how to poke around in the right places to find stuff.  

        I am an environmental and transportation planner, and have written a LOT of environmental and other techncal reports.  I think of myself as conversant in engineer, biologist, noise expert, politician, and several other professional dialects.  As I said, IANAL, but I understand it (with an accent).

        It helps to explain stuff for the average Joe/Jane and know how to write it accordingly.  I don't mean dumbed-down, just accessible.

        I'm part of the "bedwetting bunch of website Democrat base people (DKos)." - Rush Limbaugh, 10/16/2012 Torture is Wrong! We live near W so you don't have to. Send love.

        by tom 47 on Wed Oct 24, 2012 at 02:57:19 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Good, we need better writers. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Any chance we can get good writers and web designers to look over the multitude of County Clerk websites in Texas (254) and make them look alike and act alike from election to election?  I'm having difficulty navigating all the different sites.  It's a shame voters are discouraged in this manner.  I had to figure out Harris County for myself (and had to wade through a diatribe about the "myths" surrounding voting poorly written by the Republican County Tax Collector).  Then I had to figure out Travis County for my mom, and finally Galveston County for my mother in law.  Give me a break.  Even Target has better websites than these counties!  

          It is not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom — for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself. - The Declaration of Arbroath 1320

          by htowngenie on Wed Oct 24, 2012 at 04:27:34 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  As someone here said (in their sig): (0+ / 0-)

            "I like paying taxes.  With them I buy civilization."

            It's often funding (so the questions should be addressed to the County Commissioners), but I agree, sometimes just clear writing and website design (with user-friendly look/feel/taste) would help.  Maybe send good examples as suggestions to those with cruddy sites - - ask them how another county was able to do it?  No reson to re-invent the wheel, and all that.

            (typos are always my own).

            I'm part of the "bedwetting bunch of website Democrat base people (DKos)." - Rush Limbaugh, 10/16/2012 Torture is Wrong! We live near W so you don't have to. Send love.

            by tom 47 on Wed Oct 24, 2012 at 07:31:51 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  And a quick look at Harris Co. reminds me (0+ / 0-)

              that they have had some real issues with a jerk Tax Assessor-Collector who is also the Elections Administrator (elected, in Harris Co.)  That is probably the good reason that there are so many "myths" to be dispelled - - there is a grain of truth, and a history of mistrust by AA voters and the Democratic Party, not without cause.

              I'm part of the "bedwetting bunch of website Democrat base people (DKos)." - Rush Limbaugh, 10/16/2012 Torture is Wrong! We live near W so you don't have to. Send love.

              by tom 47 on Wed Oct 24, 2012 at 07:36:10 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

    •  Read Article 6 of the U.S. Constitution (0+ / 0-)

      The executive branch of the State of Texas seems to be under the impression that state law trumps federal law.  When it comes to making license plates, Texas is right.  But Texas is wrong when it comes to honoring treaties entered into by the United States.  Texas Governor Perry, Texas Secretary of State Hope Andrade, and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott seem to think that Texas is still a sovereign nation, a Confederate state, or some political changeling well outside the Constitution of the United States, and they have threatened OSCE/ODIH observers with criminal prosecution under Texas law.  Interesting.  Like all other treaty countries of the Organization for Security and Co-operation In Europe (OSCE), the United States has an obligation to invite ODIHR observers to observe its elections, whether in Texas or Maine.  Perhaps in their ceaseless effort to improve Texas history text books (where American slavery has been euphemised to "Atlantic triangular trade”), these executives forgot to read the document they have sworn to uphold and defend, namely the Constitution of the United States.  If they had, they might have rememberd Article 6, the one that covers treaties.  Article 6 lays it out pretty clearly, even for state executives:

      This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

      Period.  The Texas executive branch seems to have forgotten the the "laws of Texas" do not apply to treaties entered into by the federal government.  The Constitution expressly prohibits it.  And unless Texas once again commits treasonous, armed rebellion against the United States, it will always fall under the Constitution and laws of the United States.  This fact should be made crystal clear to those sworn to know better.  If by October 25, Abbott still insists on pursing his pseudo-legal course, the United States Secretary of State should petition the federal courts for an enforcement order.  And with such a federal court order in hand, we might well see the 101st Airborne again enforcing federal law at tip of bayonet.  Mess with Texas indeed.

      •  Suggestion: Look before you leap. I do. (0+ / 0-)

        If a particular state wants to invite OSCE Short-term Observers (STOs) into its polling places -- and it's legal for them to be there under that state's laws -- I have no problem with it. However, from having worked as an election official, I know there are times when election officials are far too busy serving the voting public to be bothered dealing with observers. A fly on the wall is no big deal. A fly in my soup is.

        Chances that the 1990 Copenhagen Document has the standing of a treaty are miniscule. (Not miniscule. Zero. I checked again.) Therefore, neither the Texas Attorney General nor anyone else is empowered to tell UN observers they can break Texas' election law with impunity. If they break the law, they'll have consequences to deal with, just as anyone else in Texas would.

        Chances that STOs have a status that provides diplomatic immunity are small, but perhaps not miniscule. . . . Well, so much for that. Whatever immunity they ordinarily have, the State Department has decided to give them full diplomatic immunity. A not so subtle poke in the eye of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott.

        Abbott knows what he is talking about and is correct on all counts -- in this instance. As I see it, he stood to gain politically if he responded to an uproar that had been caused by the notion being pushed in the mainstream media that UN observers would be at Texas polling places specifically to be on the lookout for conservatives intimidating voters -- at the behest of several leftwing groups. That's not their job. (The ambiguous antecedent is intentional.)

        The observers' role has changed over time. The ODIHR/OSCE Election Observation Handbook (Fourth Edition) said this: "Observers may wish to bring irregularities to the attention of the local election officials, but they must never give instructions or countermand decisions of the election officials."

        Fifth edition: "In the event of irregularities observers should bring them to the attention of election officials, but they should not give their advice or instruction or attempt to countermand decisions of election officials." From "may" to "should" in the first clause, and then from "must never" to "should not" in the second. Interesting changes.

        Sixth edition, the current edition: "In the event of irregularities, observers should observe how and whether election officials address these and include this information in their reporting." For whatever reason, the OSCE has backed off from its earlier instructions, calling for a less intrusive approach. Smart move to make the change. Note, however, that there's no explicit prohibition on calling perceived problems to the attention of election officials -- some of may have been doing their jobs for thirty years or more. Have you ever noticed that teachers don't respond very well to being shown up by kindergartners?

        If you want to know what the OSCE does in Election Observation Missions, read the Election Observation Handbook (Sixth Edition). I haven't read all 120 pages yet, but I'm working on it.

        Look before you leap.

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