Texas attorney general warns UN poll watchers to keep their distance
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott sent a letter Tuesdsay warning United Nations-affiliated poll watchers that they do not have jurisdiction in the state and will, therefore, be criminally prosecuted if they attempt to interfere at Texas polling locations on Nov. 6.
The letter, addressed to Ambassador Daan Everts, came in response to the announcement that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe will deploy scores of election monitors to the U.S. in an effort to monitor conservative groups for voter suppression or intimidation. (RELATED: United Nations organization set to monitor US polling places on Election Day)
“Groups and individuals from outside the United States are not allowed to influence or interfere with the election process in Texas,” wrote Abbott. “This State has robust election laws that were carefully crafted to protect the integrity of our election system. The Texas Election Code governs anyone who participates in Texas elections—including representatives of the OSCE.”
In compliance with the code, U.N. poll watchers will be barred from entering polling places and must keep a distance of a minimum of 100 feet from a polling place’s entrance.
Abbott pointed out numerous concerns surrounding the decision to send monitors. The U.N.-affiliate reportedly met with Project Vote, an organization closely affiliated with the now-defunct group ACORN, that has filed lawsuits challenging Texas voter registration laws.
While that lawsuit was rejected by a federal appeals court in September, Project Vote sent a letter to OSCE requesting they send international poll watchers to specifically monitor U.S. states, like Texas, that have recently enacted voter ID laws. Liberal organizations such as the ACLU and NAACP also made this request to the UN-affiliate, additionally citing Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida and Ohio.
“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,” states Abbott.
Abbott also highlighted that “it remains unclear exactly what [OSCE] monitoring is intended to achieve, or precisely what tactics [OSCE] will use to achieve the proposed monitoring.”
Texas Gov. Rick Perry took to Twitter to show solidarity with state officials, tweeting, “No UN monitors/inspectors will be part of any TX election process.”
The director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, Ambassador Janez Lenarcic, responded to Abbott with his own letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Lenarcic perceives Abbott’s letter as contrary to the “established good co-operation” between the U.N. group and the U.S.
“The threat of criminal sanctions against OSCE/ODIHR observers is unacceptable,” Lenarcic wrote. “The United States, like all countries in the OSCE, has an obligation to invite ODIHR observers to observe its elections.”
Texas may not be the only state to consider taking action against U.N. poll watchers. Earlier this week, The Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives advocated for state legislation that would bar international monitors from Alabama.