European Election Monitors Find U.S. Elections Are Expensive, "Unduly Politicized," Other Shockingly Obvious Conclusions

Categories: Politics

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Greg Abbott and Rick Perry, thinking about election monitors
At the end of October, highly watchable Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott threatened to press charges against any "U.N. poll watchers" who might "interfere with Texas elections." Not to be outdone, state officials in Pennsylvania and Iowa also started threatening to arrest people.

Those "poll watchers" were in fact election observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, of which the United States is a member, and they came anyway, specifically teams from their Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR). According to ODIHR spokesperson Thomas Rhymer, there were two long-term election observers here in Texas. Neither of them was arrested on Election Day by Abbott, despite what we're sure were his best efforts.

Yesterday, the OSCE team released a preliminary report about just how elections in the United States work. It's like reading a travel guide to Earth, written by inquisitive, somewhat naive aliens.

In general, the OSCE found, the elections took place in a "pluralistic environment and were administered in a professional manner." However, it adds:

[D]ecisions on technical aspects of the electoral process were often unduly politicized. Highly competitive campaigns were covered extensively in the media, allowing voters to make informed choices. While characterized by broad public confidence, further steps should be taken to improve the electoral process, in areas such as voting rights, the accuracy of voter lists, campaign finance transparency, recount procedures, and access of international election observers.

You'll no doubt be shocked to learn that U.S. elections are "characterized by a high level of campaign spending" and that spending by some independent groups isn't subject to very strict disclosure requirements. Also, third party candidates have trouble getting on the ballot in enough states to have any shot whatsoever at being elected.

The OSCE also notes that coverage by "leading cable news networks" is "highly partisan." In particular, they found:

Fox News dedicated 66 per cent of its coverage to Obama and 34 per cent to Romney. Coverage of Obama on Fox News was
mostly negative in tone (72 per cent). MSNBC dedicated 34 per cent of its coverage to Obama and 66 per cent to Romney. Coverage of Romney on MSNBC was mostly negative in tone (87 percent).

The observers also seem confused by the fact that 50 million or so eligible citizens didn't actually vote. They don't attribute that to widespread voter apathy or getting involved in a really intense, can't-break-away Xbox session on Election Day. Instead, the lower voter turnout, they say, "bring[s] into question the effectiveness of existing measures to ensure that all persons entitled to vote are able to exercise that right."

The observers also called voter I.D. laws "politically polarized," adding, "While efforts
to ensure the integrity of the vote are important, these should not lead to the disenfranchisement of eligible voters."

That does sound good. Have we tried that?

In general, the OSCE seems pretty all right the way U.S. elections are run, with one notable exception: the way their observers were treated.

"In several states OSCE/ODIHR observers were not provided full and unimpeded access to polling stations," they write. "In some cases, OSCE/ODIHR observers were publicly threatened with criminal sanctions if they entered polling stations. This is in contravention of paragraphs 8 and 10 of the 1990 OSCE Copenhagen Document."

The OSCE team will issue a comprehensive final report in about eight weeks, including recommendations for potential improvements. Abbott must be counting down the days.

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10 comments
The Stig
The Stig

So that explains the black helicopters flying around my house at night. 

cheeseburger
cheeseburger

They were also generally shocked that we didn't require identification.  I saw people in line to vote with their ID in hand even though they didn't need it.  Why?  Because it's absolutely ludicrous to most people that you wouldn't have to identify yourself at a polling station.

Anna_Merlan
Anna_Merlan

 @cheeseburger That's not what their report says. This is the Voter ID section, in full: 

 

"Voter identification is a highly polarized issue. While Republicans push for stricter legislation to prevent potential fraud and safeguard electoral integrity, Democrats generally claim that the risk of fraud is minimal and does not warrant restrictions that could disenfranchise voters. A number of states enacted new voter identification laws requiring voters to present government-issued photo identification. Some OSCE/ODIHR LEOM interlocutors stated that the cost associated with travelling to identification issuing offices and obtaining accompanying documentation placed an unreasonable restriction that disproportionately affected minority and low-income voters, as well as single mothers. Several new identification laws were struck down by courts or vetoed by governors and were ultimately not implemented in these elections.16 While efforts to ensure the integrity of the vote are important, these should be clearly defined and not lead to disenfranchisement of eligible voters.

 

Some 30 states required voters to present proof of identity at the polling station. Voters were required to provide photo identification documents in four states, while in five other states they were requested to show photo identification but were permitted by law to cast a ballot after signing an affidavit to confirm identity, under penalty of perjury.  In contrast, postal voting, despite its increasing usage, does not require similar voter identification checking." 

GuitarPlayer
GuitarPlayer

 @Anna_Merlan  This is how folks on the right work. First they make a claim like cheeseburger did. They hope you don't respond, when you do they scramble for another link to support their bogus claim that has NOTHING to do with the first link they responded too. 

cheeseburger
cheeseburger

 @GuitarPlayer  @cheeseburger  I have not changed the argument, and  the report didn't  contradict what I said.  The report said that attempts to rectify the situation are highly politicized.  What we have here with GuitarPlayer, is a reading comprehension problem.

GuitarPlayer
GuitarPlayer

 @cheeseburger  Here is another tactic. Try to steer the argument  from the original point. That is why Anne responded with "That's not what their report says. This is the Voter ID section, in full: " Nice try cheesehead. What's next? Spellcheck?

fistofsouth
fistofsouth

 @GuitarPlayer  @Anna_Merlan Well the article he linked seemed to support his argument that observers were amazed by our trust-based voting system.   What part of that does no substantiate his claim that "They were also generally shocked that we didn't require identification. "  Tell me what I'm missing.

cheeseburger
cheeseburger

 @GuitarPlayer  @Anna_Merlan There's nothing bogus about the claim that almost every other country requires you to identify yourself when you vote, and that they are surprised that we don't.

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