Texas Threatens to Arrest UN Observers for Ensuring Voter Fairness

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) sent a clear message to any United Nations elections observers who might show up in the state to monitor polling places around the country: if you show up in Texas you’ll get arrested.

In a letter to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, a body created by U.N. charter and tasked with helping ensure the integrity of elections worldwide, Abbott made it clear that as far as Texas was concerned diplomatic poll-watchers were not welcome. “It may be a criminal offense for OSCE’s representatives to maintain a presence within 100 feet of a polling place’s entrance,” the letter states. “Failure to comply with these requirements could subject the OSCE’s representatives to criminal prosecution for violating state law.”

Earlier in the month the OSCE announced it would send 44 observers to polling places around the country on Election Day. The move was in response to a petition from groups like the NAACP and ACLU who are concerned about potentially criminal voter-suppression efforts by conservative groups.

Needless to say, the OSCE was troubled by Abbott’s letter and responded in kind with a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, saying that Abbott’s threat put Texas at odds with an agreement between the OSCE and state authorities. “The threat of criminal sanctions against OSCE/ODIHR observers is unacceptable,” the letter said. “The United States, like all countries in the OSCE, has an obligation to invite ODIHR observers to observe its elections.”

The group also took issue with Abbott’s insinuations that it was there to influence the results of the election. “Our observers are required to remain strictly impartial and not to intervene in the voting process in any way,” the letter said. “They are in the United States to observe these elections, not to interfere in them.”

Abbott is the latest conservative to publicly air anti-U.N. paranoia. Florida GOP Senate candidate Connie Mack recently stated 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.

The OSCE has observed five previous U.S. elections since 2002, most recently the November midterm elections, and all without incident. But now that the Tea Party has nailed down much of the Republican base, we can expect to hear more of these anti-U.N. arguments, which should bode well for our efforts at global diplomacy. Maybe not.


Related Stories:

International Observers Sent To Prevent Voter Suppression In U.S. Elections

Think Voter ID Is Bad? Meet the Poll-Watchers

Tea Party Voting Purges Might Be Criminal


Photo from rcbodden via flickr.


LMj Sunshine

Interesting article.

LMj Sunshine

Interesting article.

Jane Mckenzie
Jane Mckenzie3 years ago


Frank Mugford
Frank Mugford3 years ago

If there be a God, please step up now and stop those stupid yanks from voting in that jerk Mitster; if he is elected, we are probably looking at WW3 within four years. He will bomb Iran as sure as shooting, and the so called 'Peace Process' for Palestine will be incinerated, buried and well forgotten.
Obama was a considerable disappointment but at least he isn't Bush or Romney or Cheney etc.
Oh dear, I am sitting here with everything crossed; I am so worried about the stupidity of those misguided Republicants but I am also really concerned about the venality, corruption and downright gangster activities of some parts of the Republicant Party.

Stella Gamboni
Stella Gamboni3 years ago

Whoops! Seem to have stepped into a firestorm here! I'm backing out of this one. Let the flaming continue...

[Seems to me, though, if you're going to have UN observers, they really ought to concentrate on Florida -- I've pretty much given up on Texas.)

Stephen Brian
Stephen Brian3 years ago

Hi Kevin,

Here is the relevant section (8): "The participating States consider that the presence of observers, both foreign and domestic, can enhance the electoral process for States in which elections are taking place. They therefore invite observers from any other CSCE participating States and any appropriate private institutions and organizations who may wish to do so to observe the course of their national election proceedings, to the extent permitted by law. They will also endeavour to facilitate similar access for election proceedings held below the national level. Such observers will undertake not to interfere in the electoral proceedings."

Note the "to the extent permitted by law". The treaty explicitly limits itself to local law, giving local lawmakers the authority contradict its terms and override it. While you are generally correct that treaties override state-law, this treaty in particular, due to its self-limitation, does not.

Kevin Brown
Kevin Brown3 years ago

Robby - You can play the victim all you like, but when you come onto this site, start pontificating your right wing talking points, call people "idiots," insult them by saying "read this (if you can)" you are going to get flamed for a troll.

Robby C.
Past Member 3 years ago

(Cut off.., should've counted lines- seems I can usually get about 17 in although I know there are other ways to deal w/the lack of a character counter- I really thought that would fit...)
Anyway, I would prefer that as opposed to wasting community bandwidth in a silly back & forth like that to begin with.

Robby C.
Past Member 3 years ago

Theresa B- you're right- I apologize for that. I let the keyboard get the better of me. I was just a little irritated to have Pam call me a fool for "insulting" Kevin B when the insult was one of his own quotes (to someone else). It is my opinion, that if one is going to jump in to defend someone else like that (insulting me as she did) that one should go back a little further & know more about the argument to begin with- as if the quotations around my insults weren't a clue.

Another reply of his, just a post or two later was this: "Les G. - "I believe you are wrong. With the blatant attempts by the right to disenfranchise, confuse, and intimidate..." I don't care for the constant one party attacks (I try to demonstrate in most of my posts that I'm more neutral- I lean right on some issues & left on others). It would seem to me, that his position is, the right is 100% evil & the left is 100% perfect. Even the most hard-core out there, know that this is not true. But IF that's his opinion, he can have it. Still, the way he disagreed in the above quote, is relatively polite. He didn't insult Les G (unless he did in a previous post, that I didn't see). But, he has not done that w/me. He's insulted me quite a few times, & on other topics, right off the bat. But in all honesty, it's not THAT big of a deal to me. I've wasted too much time on this one topic already. If he has more to say to me he can PM me- I would prefer that as opposed to wasting community ban

Kevin Brown
Kevin Brown3 years ago

Stephen B. - The supremacy clause definately applies in this case. The US is a singatory to the Copenhagen Accords which makes it valid US law. The states run the elections, but under the auspices of the US Constitution (specifically the 14th and 15th Amendment and federal law). The state of Texas cannot trump federal law with a state law.