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USA denies OSCE access to voting stations

Arie Bloed
Analysis 15 November 2012

Although it is no longer a surprise that OSCE election observers are not the most welcome guests in quite a few former Soviet republics, now apparently the United States has joined the ranks of states which try to limit the OSCE’s election monitoring activities. This became clear during the functioning of the limited election observation mission to the US which was supposed to observe the presidential elections on the 6th of November. The OSCE has observed elections in the US since 2002 without any significant problem, but this year was different, when the Texas authorities tried to block the doors of the polling stations to OSCE observers.

This blockade was not only a result of a ‘technical’ application of the Texas law in this area which apparently is not interested in much transparency of the voting process within its boundaries, but it became clear that the authorities got clearly fed up with the OSCE because of its ‘affiliation’ with non-governmental groups in the US which the Texas authorities strongly dislike. As it was explained by the Auditor-General of Texas in a long letter to the US Secretary of State of 25 October: “Indeed, contrary to the principles of “political pluralism” articulated in the 1990 OSCE Copenhagen Document, the OSCE has recently coordinated with a number of plainly partisan organizations in the United States. This appears to reflect a concerted effort to politicize an initiative that was previously perceived as an international information exchange program. While Texas may welcome visitors from any nation or international organization who wish to learn more about the steps the State has taken to protect the integrity of state elections, we need not open our doors and accommodate an international effort affiliated with partisan organizations in the United States that wish to suppress electoral integrity.

The case in point is OSCE’s coordination with Project Vote, an overtly partisan organization that was founded by and closely affiliated with ACORN. As you know, ACORN collapsed in the wake of a national voter registration fraud scandal that resulted in multiple criminal prosecutions for violations of state and federal election laws. Just this week, Project Vote boasted that it was advising OSCE on which issues to study—and which states to monitor—this election cycle. In light of Project Vote’s history of voter registration fraud and its more recent failed attempt to enjoin Texas election laws that were enacted to prevent fraud, no legitimate international body would affiliate with Project Vote. Consequently, OSCE’s affiliation with this dubious organization necessarily undermines its credibility and the independence of its election monitors.”

The Texas Auditor-General added a judgment that would resonate very well in places like Minsk and Moscow: “While we welcome international visitors who wish to engage in a legitimate information exchange, we have no interest in being lectured by the OSCE about how best to conduct the State of Texas’ business.” (https://www.oag.state.tx.us/oagnews/release.php?id=4199)

Of course, the director of ODIHR had to respond strongly against the Texan obstruction of the work of the OSCE observers. In a letter to the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, Janez Lenarcic wrote: “The threat of criminal sanctions against OSCE/ODIHR observers is unacceptable. 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. They are in the United States to observe these elections, not to interfere in them.” (http://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/96639)

The US government for sure won’t be pleased with the Texan outrage about the OSCE observers, but some observers “east of Vienna” will have noted these events with great satisfaction.