Greg Abbott, Texas Attorney General, Threatens To Arrest U.N. Elections Observers
Greg Abbott, the Republican Attorney General of Texas, issued a stern warning this week to members of a United Nations-affiliated delegation expected to be on hand to monitor voting at polling places around the country on Election Day.
In a letter to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, a body created by U.N. charter and responsible for helping to ensure the integrity of elections, among other tasks, Abbott warned the diplomatic poll-watchers that their involvement in U.S. elections could have strong legal repercussions.
"It may be a criminal offense for OSCE's representatives to maintain a presence within 100 feet of a polling place's entrance," he writes. "Failure to comply with these requirements could subject the OSCE's representatives to criminal prosecution for violating state law." Such a restriction makes election monitoring highly difficult.
The OSCE announced earlier this month that it would send 44 observers to polling places around the country on Election Day in order to monitor possible disputes that could arise in the voting process. The move came in response to a petition from liberal-leaning voting rights groups, including the NAACP and ACLU, that suggested the OSCE's presence could help combat what they fear will be a concerted effort to suppress votes from supporters of President Barack Obama.
Concerns among Democrats have mounted in the wake of reports that right-leaning groups, such as the Tea Party-aligned True The Vote, had plans to dispatch armies of poll-watchers seeking to root out invalid votes. Opponents warn that the volunteer "poll challengers" will engage in intimidation of legitimate minority voters who tend to vote Democratic.
In his letter, Abbott takes issue with the OSCE's supposed opposition to voter ID laws, which won't be in place in Texas after being rejected by a federal court, and adds that the group's efforts at polling places are neither needed nor acceptable.
"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," he writes. "However, groups and individuals from outside the United States are not allowed to influence or interfere with the election process in Texas. 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."
Abbott's opposition is consistent with a growing trend of conservative distrust toward the United Nations and its affiliates. On Tuesday, Florida GOP Senate candidate Connie Mack said that the U.N. should be defunded and "kicked off of American soil." In a statement, Mack appeared to suggest that the broader U.N., and therefore presumably the OSCE as well, was driven by nefarious motives.
“The very idea that the United Nations -- the world body dedicated to diminishing America’s role in the world -- would be allowed, if not encouraged, to install foreigners sympathetic to the likes of Castro, Chavez, Ahmadinejad and Putin to oversee our elections is nothing short of disgusting," he said.
UPDATE: 3:10 p.m. EST -- Ambassador Janez Lenarčič, director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), responded in a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, saying that Abbott's threat put the state of Texas at odds with an agreement between his body and state authorities.
“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.”
Lenarčič took issue with insinuations that officials in the group would meddle with elections, reiterating that they were bound by national laws and regulations, as well as their own 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.”
A release relaying Lenarčič's comments pointed out that the OSCE has observed five previous U.S. elections since 2002, all without incident.
That li'l pissant TX Atty Gen is a tinhorn braggart.
Shallower than piss on a flat rock.
He ain't gonna do diddly.
What else would expect from a GOP Texan?
What are the chances the observers would be interested in Texas anyway? Presumably they'll be trying to check out Ohio, Florida etc.
What's shameful is that there have been enough attempts at voter suppression by the Repugs that UN observers of the voting process don't seem like an insane over-reaction.
As our beloved leader Mitt Romney says, Americans don't dictate to other nations. We only liberate them.
They observers would be safer in Syria.
What a freak! What is he afraid of? Sounds like some kind of banana Republic thing to say.
R10 you beat me to it. How embarassing that the US has to have monitors for elections. All thanks to the evil actions of the GOP, this country won't be a democratic leader again.
You know, they keep escalating this the way they're going and I can see a point where we're going to have to send federal troops into Texas and put this shit down once and for all.
American Exceptionalism means not having to observe the Law of Nations.
Come and try bitches. Oh and all of ya'll coming down so ya'll can work. Go the fuck home. Ya'll need us, we don't need ya'll.
Let Bud Abbott threaten all he wants. Keep going, U.N.!
Hey, Abbott! You're a BAD Boy!
[bold] International vote monitors warn Texas: Don't mess with us [/bold]
(Reuters) - International election monitors took a dim view on Wednesday of Texas' threat to prosecute them if they observe voting in the state a bit too closely on November 6.
The exchange pitted the Vienna-based human rights watchdog Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe against Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who warned the OSCE not to interfere with polling in state elections.
"The threat of criminal sanctions against OSCE/ODIHR observers is unacceptable," Janez Lenarcic, director of the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) monitoring arm, said in a statement.
"The United States, like all countries in the OSCE, has an obligation to invite ODIHR observers to observe its elections."
Abbott told Reuters on Wednesday that he is considering legal action against the group if it doesn't concede that it will follow the state's laws.
"They act like they may not be subject to Texas law and our goal all along is to make clear to them that when they're in Texas, they're subject to Texas law, and we're not giving them an exemption," he said.
Abbott is skeptical about why the group wants to look at elections in Texas.
"Our concern is that this isn't some benign observation but something intended to be far more prying and maybe even an attempt to suppress voter integrity," he said.
In a letter on Tuesday to the Warsaw-based ODIHR, Abbott had noted that OSCE representatives were 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," he added.
He cited reports that OSCE monitors had met with organizations challenging voter identification laws. Texas' voter ID law was blocked earlier this year by a federal court, and Abbott has said he will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
"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," Abbott wrote.
Texas Secretary of State Hope Andrade also wrote to the United Nations-affiliated OSCE/ODIHR on Tuesday, saying that it's key for Texans to understand that the organization has no jurisdiction over the state.
Republican Texas Governor Rick Perry tweeted on Tuesday: "No UN monitors/inspectors will be part of any TX election process; I commend @TXsecofstate for swift action to clarify issue."
The 56-member OSCE routinely sends monitors to elections and noted November's elections would be the sixth U.S. vote that ODIHR has observed "without incident" since 2002.
For next month's elections it has a core team of 13 experts from 10 OSCE countries based in Washington and 44 long-term observers deployed across the country, it said.
Lenarcic had shared his "grave concern" about the threat of Texas prosecutions with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the OSCE said.
"Our observers are required to remain strictly impartial and not to intervene in the voting process in any way," Lenarcic said. "They are in the United States to observe these elections, not to interfere in them."