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.
Photo from rcbodden via flickr.