Thursday, 01 November 2012
The group hosting international election observers said Thursday that state officials in Iowa and Texas are needlessly blocking access to the decades-old process the United States already has agreed to, an official said Thursday.
Thomas Rymer, a spokesman for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, said the group will abide by election laws after officials in those states warned about possible criminal prosecution if the observers came within hundreds of feet of polling places.
“We will of course comply,” Rymer told POLITICO. “At the same time, the lack of access to polling stations for international observers in some states is not in line with the United States’s international commitments, and we have noted this in past final reports issued by observation missions.”
On Nov. 6, the OSCE — a 56-country security and conflict resolution organization that includes the United States — will have 44 observers in different states meeting with “stakeholders,” including candidates, local media and other on-the-ground actors, as well as a team of 13 election analysts in Washington , who will focus on specific issues such as demographic turnout nationally.
The 2012 race is the sixth U.S. election the OSCE has observed since 2002, and since then, access to voting precincts across the country has been largely dependent on the reaction of state and local officials.
“In Texas, for example, the attorney general is the chief law enforcement authority, so if the state law as written and as the AG is going to enforce it says the election observers can’t go in, we will report that,” Rymer said.
On Tuesday, Iowa followed Texas’s move and warned of arrests if observers violate state election law by coming within 300 feet of polling places. (In Texas, it’s 100 feet.)
“My office met with two delegation representatives last week to discuss Iowa’s election process, and it was explained to them that they are not permitted at the polls,” Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz said in a statement. “Iowa law is very specific about who is permitted at polling places, and there is no exception for members of this group.”