Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has officially put Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on notice: United Nations-affiliated election monitors are not above Texas law.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) recently announced it would send dozens of international poll monitors to the United States to monitor the upcoming elections.
“It appears that OSCE is under the misimpression that the State Department can somehow help its representatives circumvent the Texas Election Code,” Abbott wrote in a letter sent Thursday to the State Department. “If the OSCE does not want to follow Texas law, then perhaps it should send its representatives to another state.”
“Texas law prohibits unauthorized persons from entering a polling place — or loitering within 100 feet of a polling place’s entrance — on Election Day,” Abbott wrote. “OSCE monitors are expected to follow that law like everyone else.” (RELATED: Texas attorney general warns UN poll watchers to keep their distance)
The letter was a response to foreign diplomat Janez Lenarcic, who sent a letter on behalf of the OSCE to the State Department on Wednesday. Lenarcic’s letter called on State Department officials to ensure UN election monitors would not be “restrained in their activities” in Texas on Election Day.
Lenarcic also stated that “the threat of criminal sanctions against OSCE/ODIHR observers is unacceptable.”
Abbott retorted that the “letter from the OSCE suggests that the international group can circumvent Texas election law by gaining unfettered access to Texas’ polling locations.”
In an exclusive interview with The Daily Caller, Abbott said he was struck by the “attitude” of Lenarcic’s letter on behalf of OSCE, saying it was “an attitude that they could do whatever.”
TheDC asked Abbott what specific things he would like to see from the OSCE and the State Department before and on Election Day.
“[OSCE] needs to admit that they know what the Texas laws are and that they will abide by them,” he said. “Secondly, the secretary of state needs to acknowledge and understand that. And finally, OSCE must fulfill their obligation by abiding by Texas law.”
But Abbott said he has been given “no information” regarding the process these international monitors will employ.
“We do not know who is going to be there, what polling locations they are going to be at, or what they are going to do,” Abbott said.
While he noted it would be “physically impossible” to monitor the international individuals sent to Texas, Abbott said he hopes his original letter to the OSCE heightened awareness about the issue.
“One of the goals we sought when writing the first letter was to educate poll workers and poll watchers — the people assigned to polling locations on Election Day — concerning the OSCE,” Abbott said.
The OSCE has asserted that they have sent monitors to elections since 2002. Abbott said he believes that the “mission of OSCE changed” and that the organization has adopted a political agenda, pointing out that this election cycle, OSCE has specifically “articulated goals to send election officials in states that have recently implemented voter integrity laws.”
Additionally, Abbott noted that the other states that left-leaning American organizations requested the UN monitor — Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida and Ohio — are all swing states.
Abbott said he believes the decision to target such states is directly a result of liberal organizations petitioning for their involvement. Abbott cited a Dec. 2011 report, sent by the NAACP, which was used to request the UN be more aggressively involved in monitoring the 2012 presidential election due to “what is a coordinated campaign to disenfranchise persons of color.”
In April 2012, OSCE leaders reportedly met with several organizations — which Abbott describes as “antagonistic to voter integrity laws” — on the same issue. And earlier this month, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the ACLU and the NAACP penned a letter to an UN ambassador, accusing conservative groups of “a coordinated political effort to disenfranchise millions of Americans — particularly traditionally disenfranchised groups like minorities.”
The international group also met with Project Vote, an organization closely affiliated with the now-defunct group ACORN, that has filed lawsuits challenging new Texas voter integrity laws. A federal appeals court struck down one of those lawsuits in September.
“OSCE’s affiliation with this dubious organization necessarily undermines its credibility and the independence of its election monitors,” Abbott stated.
The attorney general also noted concerns raised in Thursday’s State Department press briefing about the immunities or privileges these international monitors may receive. Such distinctions could protect the monitors from the legal ramifications of interfering with Texas Election Code laws.
“They make clear that the monitors do not have diplomatic immunity and that they must follow state law. But they vaguely suggest they have some other form of special privilege or immunity,” Abbott told TheDC.
In response to a reporter’s question about the support the State Department offers to international monitors, spokesperson Victor Nuland said the monitors could be treated like diplomats.
“Since 1996, we have also given the observers privileges and immunities when they come into the United States, certain diplomatic privileges and immunities, as we do for diplomatic personnel,” Nuland said.
When directly asked if all observers would specifically receive diplomatic immunity, Nuland responded, “No, they get certain privileges and immunities.”
Nuland did not answer follow-up questions about which monitors would receive these special privileges, or what the exact privileges are.