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Regular news media, pundits and blogs are participating in an effort to conflate the UN and OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe). Given the UN's perceived poor standing with US political institutions and a wide swath of the public, the objective is to discredit the observers as being UN intruders to the US political process and elections. But it is all, to use a recently revived and popular term, malarkey.

We need to quash this right wing meme.

Follow below the squiggle to understand the role of the OSCE:  

An early effort in this campaign of conflation was made by Alexander Bolton of the Hill - giving voice to the so called voter fraud group True the Vote: International monitors at US polling spots draw criticism from voter fraud groups.

United Nations-affiliated election monitors from Europe and central Asia will be at polling places around the U.S. looking for voter suppression activities by conservative groups, a concern raised by civil rights groups during a meeting this week. The intervention has drawn criticism from a prominent conservative-leaning group combating election fraud.
The request for foreign monitoring of election sites drew a strong rebuke from Catherine Engelbrecht, founder and president of True the Vote, a conservative-leaning group seeking to crack down on election fraud.

 “These activist groups sought assistance not from American sources, but from the United Nations,” she said in a statement to The Hill. “The United Nations has no jurisdiction over American elections.”

Bolton offers no critique of True to Vote, a group widely known to be involved in massive voter suppression. Civil Rights Leaders Complain of Voter Intimidation by Houston Group:
True the Vote, a Tea Party-inspired group, has been criticized for its voter-monitoring efforts.

They portray themselves as a nonpartisan group devoted to "equipping citizens to take a stand for free and fair elections." But the group, True the Vote, has been widely criticized by civil rights leaders and others as being something of a vigilante group intent on intimidating voters at the polls on Election Day.

Numerous other media have picked up on this meme that OSCE = UN; the Gateway Pundit breathlessly announced on 26 October: United Nations Releases Complete List of US Election Observation Points, using extensive quotes from The Hill article.

Never mind that the pdf document they included - with the heading "United Nations Election Observer Deployment 2012" is actually named "OSCE/ODIHR Limited Election Observation Mission to the United States of America", with no UN staff involved at all. Unfortunately, there are many other articles online following in this path. Here is another example, including a picture of the UN HQ to further confuse the issue - UN Backed OSCE Sending Observers To Monitor U.S. Election.

The crazy was taken to a new level when state officials in Texas and Iowa threatened to arrest the OSCE election observers. Can Iowa and Texas legally bar international election monitors?

OSCE responded to the threats of the Texas Attorney General with a letter to SOS 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.”

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.”

So, what is the OSCE and what is its role in election monitoring?


The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) is the world's largest security-oriented intergovernmental organization. Its mandate includes issues such as arms control and the promotion of human rights, freedom of the press and fair elections. It has 550 headquarters staff and about 2300 field staff.[1]

The OSCE is concerned with early warning, conflict prevention, crisis management and post-conflict rehabilitation. Its 56 participating states are located in Europe, the former Soviet Union and North America and cover most of the northern hemisphere. It was created during the Cold War era as an East-West forum.

The US was and is a strong backer of the OSCE.

OSCE has observer status in the UN General Assembly along with dozens of other international organizations and a few non-member states. It has no voting rights.

Here is a summary of what OSCE does, including combating terrorism, conflict prevention and resolution, education and good governance - just to mention a few. In terms of elections, OSCE has a crucial role.

OSCE has observed federal elections in the US since 2002, always at the invitation of the Government:

The limited election observation mission's deployment follows an invitation from the authorities of the United States. As a participating State in the OSCE, the United States has committed itself to conducting elections in line with OSCE standards and inviting international election observers. ODIHR has assessed elections in the United States since 2002.
So whenever you come across this false description of the OSCE election observation mission, I suggest you push back. All the resources needed are linked in this post.
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