UN meddles at polls
Owned and published by UMHB, The Bells is a biweekly publication. This content was previously published in print on the Opinions page. Opinions expressed in this section do not necessarily reflect the views of the staff or the university.
After much controversy in Texas over voter identification laws and accusations of voter suppression, Texas officials learned that a group made of members from other nations from the Organization for Security and Cooperation would be coming to monitor American polling stations.
The announcement angered Attorney General Greg Abbot. He sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton outlining his concerns. Abbot was adamant that Texas law be upheld.
“If the OSCE wishes to visit Texas during election season, we welcome the opportunity to educate its representatives about the state’s electoral process. But OSCE is not above the law, and its representatives must at all times comply with Texas law …,” Abbot wrote.
According to his letter, what sparked Abbot’s concern was a request in a communication to Clinton from the United Nations that the organization not to be “restrained in their activities.”
Many Americans saw the activity as an attempt to make sure Texas and other states were abiding by voter laws.
Abbot also wrote, “In addition to my desire to defend and enforce Texas election laws, I am also concerned that an unnecessary political agenda may have infected OSCE’s election monitoring activities.”
He was bold enough to infer some politicians were conspiring against Texas.
Abbot did not object to the visitors’ presence in the state as long as they were there to learn. “While Texas may welcome visitors from any nation or international organization who wish to learn more about the steps the state has taken to protect the integrity of state elections…,” Abbot said.
He explicitly stated that they must abide by Texas law.
Many Americans were outraged that representatives from foreign countries who may have witnessed few, if any, peaceful elections in their lifetime would be helping to watch for voter fraud.
It is one thing for people to observe so they can help create a better system in their own nation, but to give them the responsibility that comes with the word “monitor” is simply wrong.
In an interview with Fox News, Abbot said Texas law mandates that unauthorized persons who come within 100 feet of a polling station would be subject to arrest. He made clear that the state’s aim was to uphold its laws’ and it would prosecute lawbreakers.
According to Fox News, Nuri Elabbar came to the United States with poll watchers from more than 60 countries.
“It’s very difficult to transfer this system as it is to any other country. This system is built according to trust and this trust needs a lot of procedures and a lot of education for other countries to adopt it,” Elabbar told Fox.
Ironically, the monitors were supposed to watch for suppression, yet they were concerned that America’s laws governing the polls were not strict enough.
This leads Texans to wonder if it will take the observations of foreigners to prove that the voter laws that Texas pushed are necessary.
They are not meant to suppress, but maintain the integrity of American elections while ensuring that only duly registered voters have a say in the political process.