Greg Abbott, the Republican Attorney General of Texas, issued a stern warning this week to members of an international delegation expected to be on hand to monitor voting at polling places around the country on Election Day.
In a letter to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, which works to ensure the integrity of elections, among other tasks, Abbott warned the diplomatic poll-watchers that their involvement in U.S. elections could have strong legal repercussions.
"It may be a criminal offense for OSCE's representatives to maintain a presence within 100 feet of a polling place's entrance," he writes. "Failure to comply with these requirements could subject the OSCE's representatives to criminal prosecution for violating state law." Such a restriction makes election monitoring highly difficult.
The OSCE announced earlier this month that it would send 44 observers to polling places around the country on Election Day in order to monitor possible disputes that could arise in the voting process. The move came in response to a petition from liberal-leaning voting rights groups, including the NAACP and ACLU, that suggested the OSCE's presence could help combat what they fear will be a concerted effort to suppress votes from supporters of President Barack Obama.
Concerns among Democrats have mounted in the wake of reports that right-leaning groups, such as the Tea Party-aligned True The Vote, had plans to dispatch armies of poll-watchers seeking to root out invalid votes. Opponents warn that the volunteer "poll challengers" will engage in intimidation of legitimate minority voters who tend to vote Democratic.
In his letter, Abbott takes issue with the OSCE's supposed opposition to voter ID laws, which won't be in place in Texas after being rejected by a federal court, and adds that the group's efforts at polling places are neither needed nor acceptable.
"If OSCE members want to learn more about our election processes so they can improve their own democratic systems, we welcome the opportunity to discuss the measures Texas has implemented to protect the integrity of elections," he writes. "However, groups and individuals from outside the United States are not allowed to influence or interfere with the election process in Texas. This State has robust election laws that were carefully crafted to protect the integrity of our election system. All persons -- including persons connected with OSCE -- are required to comply with these laws."
Abbott's opposition is consistent with a growing trend of conservative distrust toward the United Nations and other international organizations. On Tuesday, Florida GOP Senate candidate Connie Mack said 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.
UPDATE: 3:10 p.m. EST -- Ambassador Janez Lenarčič, director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), responded in a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, saying that Abbott's threat put the state of Texas at odds with an agreement between the body and state authorities.
“The threat of criminal sanctions against OSCE/ODIHR observers is unacceptable,” Lenarčič said. “The United States, like all countries in the OSCE, has an obligation to invite ODIHR observers to observe its elections.”
Lenarčič took issue with insinuations that officials in the group would meddle with elections, reiterating that they were bound by national laws and regulations, as well as their own strict code of conduct.
“Our observers are required to remain strictly impartial and not to intervene in the voting process in any way,” Lenarčič said. “They are in the United States to observe these elections, not to interfere in them.”
A release relaying Lenarčič's comments pointed out that the OSCE has observed five previous U.S. elections since 2002, all without incident.
CORRECTION: This article originally reported that the OSCE was created by the United Nations. While the OSCE and UN partner on some operations, they are independent organizations.
Also on HuffPost:
Obama Is Not An American Citizen
One of the most popular Obama conspiracy theories (aka the Birther Movement), endorsed (or not denied) by the likes of <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/_263532.html">Tom Delay</a>, <a href=http://www.huffingtonpost.com/_251393.html>Lou Dobbs</a>, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/_250891.html">Chuck Norris</a> and <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/_242555.html">Liz Cheney</a>, it claims that Obama is not an American citizen, thus rendering his presidency illegitimate, or something. The theory hinges on the false claim that his birth certificate is fake. Birther queen Orly Taitz (a lawyer and dentist from California) continues to lead the march, despite her lawsuit getting <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/10/29/orly-taitz-lawsuit-thrown_n_338870.html">thrown out</a> and a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/10/13/orly-taitz-slapped-with-2_n_318546.html">$20,000 fine</a>.
Obama Wants "Re-Education Camps For Young People
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), a proponent of many bizarre and outlandish critiques of President Obama, declared in April that the White House was trying to install <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/04/06/bachmann-obama-wants-re-e_n_183552.html">youth re-education camps</a>. "It's under the guise of -- quote -- volunteerism. But it's not volunteers at all. It's paying people to do work on behalf of government," said the Minnesota Republican. "I believe that there is a very strong chance that we will see that young people will be put into mandatory service. And the real concerns is that there are provisions for what I would call re-education camps for young people, where young people have to go and get trained in a philosophy that the government puts forward and then they have to go to work in some of these politically correct forums."
Larry Sinclair's Rabbit Hole Of Insanity
This one is a doozy. Larry Sinclair, <a href="http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0608/11164.html">a petty criminal specializing in forgery</a>, spread wild accusations via YouTube involving <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/06/18/obama-accuser-larry-sincl_n_107900.html">gay sex, drugs and possible murder committed by Barack Obama</a>. At one point reporters apparently took Sinclair seriously enough to attend a press conference he gave, most remarkable for his lawyer's appearance in a kilt, which he explained was intended to secure comfort for his unusually large sexual organs: "Those at the other end of the spectrum find [pants] quite confining."
The Case Of The Fake Thesis
In which a group of right-wingers get taken in by a satiric blog post on Barack Obama's college thesis, written ages ago, and frantically presented as real. The post, which was tagged as SATIRE, described how <em>Time</em> Magazine's Joe Klein had obtained ten pages of a thesis written by Barack Obama, in which he wrote about how the Constitution was "inherently flawed." Then Rush Limbaugh and Michael Ledeen presented this story as <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/10/23/fake-obama-thesis-story-g_n_332255.html">fact</a>.
Bill Ayers Wrote 'Dreams From My Father"
A popular theory on right-wing websites like <a href="http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/news/2101151/posts">The Free Republic</a>, <a href="http://www.americanthinker.com/2008/10/who_wrote_dreams_from_my_fathe_1.html">American Thinker</a> and <a href="http://www.wnd.com/?pageId=110784">WorldNetDaily</a>, claiming that educator (and former radical) Bill Ayers helped Obama write "Dreams Of My Father." There is <a href="http://www.obamaconspiracy.org/category/books/">no evidence</a> supporting this claim.
Obama As Antichrist
Is Obama the Antichrist? <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HDB5BFoSQLs&feature=player_embedded">These</a> <a href="http://www.snopes.com/politics/obama/antichrist.asp">folks</a> think maybe so. McCain also verged on endorsing this theory during the campaign season with an attack ad called "<a href="http://www.time.com/time/politics/article/0,8599,1830590,00.html">The One.</a>"
Obama As Muslim
A theory that began circulating during the campaign season and has been kept alive by Tea Partiers, and other ultra-conservatives. It's taken different forms over the year (<a href="http://www.scribd.com/doc/6516016/Will-Obama-Swearin-on-the-Holy-Koran-or-the-Holy-Bible-After-Attacking-Jesus-Sermon-on-the-Mount">Will Obama be sworn into office on Qur'an??</a>, asks one website.) Most recently Tea Party leader Mark Williams had a meltdown on CNN, and <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/09/15/tea-party-leader-melts-do_n_286933.html">claimed</a> that Obama was an "Indonesian Muslim" and a "welfare thug." According to Obama and those who know him, this is not so.
Tells America In His Acceptance Speech To "Serve Satan"
Ever listened to Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" backwards? How about Obama's presidential acceptance speech? This video suggests that the speech, like the Zeppelin song, contains a Satanic message when played in reverse. Go ahead - take a bong hit, try it and tell us what you hear.
Hugo Chavez Funded The Obama Campaign
Did Hugo Chavez fund the Obama campaign? No. But some people thought so after a Fox News affiliate issued a false report claiming that <a href="http://www.snopes.com/politics/obama/chavez.asp">he did</a>.
Michelle Banished Barack's Girlfriend To The Caribbean
One of the few conspiracy theories to go after the Obamas' marriage. The claim is that Michelle banished Barack's female aide (and suspected lover) to the Caribbean. Every person involved, including the woman, says this is <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-1076695/Obama-hit-affair-smears-following-claims-attractive-aide-banned-wife.html">false</a>.
Obama Is Malcolm X's Son
Initiated by the author of the <a href="http://atlasshrugs2000.typepad.com/atlas_shrugs/2008/10/how-could-stanl.html">Atlas Shrugged</a> blog and claiming that Obama is actually Malcolm X's son. As Ezra Klein <a href="http://www.prospect.org/csnc/blogs/ezraklein_archive?month=10&year=2008&base_name=obama_x">pointed out</a> at the time: "Honestly, who wouldn't give Malcolm props for that one?" Klein continued: "And think there's anyway we can fit Tupac into the bloodline? Or maybe Obama actually is Tupac? You know that whole shooting was some bullshit, right? Incidentally, I see no reason to stop with Malcolm. History is full of great Xs for Barack Obama to be related to. Professor X, which would explain why millions of white people lose their minds in his presence. Weapon X, which would explain the adamantium grafted onto his skeleton. XML, which would explain why it's so easy to structure his data. I'm sure there are others."