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International vote observers fanning out across US

04 november 2012, 19:31
0
International observers have fanned out across some 40 US states to monitor next week's elections, a State Department official said Friday, adding problems with some states were being ironed out, AFP reports.

The State Department had worked with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, a global body that regularly monitors voting around the world, to resolve issues that arose in Texas and Iowa where the global monitors had been told not to enter polling stations.

"The OSCE team has a duty to comply with US law. They know that. We have reminded them of that," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said, though stressing that Washington valued the polling observation services.

"Our understanding from them is that they fully plan to comply with all US laws."

Last month, Texas warned that it could prosecute OSCE monitors after the southern state's Attorney General Greg Abbott said the OSCE had "identified voter ID laws as a barrier to the right to vote."

A slew of US states have passed laws requiring identification at the polls, citing concerns about voter fraud or voting by non-citizens.

Civil rights groups oppose the laws, which were mostly passed in Republican-controlled legislatures, saying they are designed to keep away poor, non-whites and the elderly -- all typical Democratic supporters.

"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," Abbott wrote in a letter to Daan Everts, who is heading up the OSCE team in the US.

On Tuesday, Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz said in a statement that Iowa election officials can arrest any unauthorized persons at polling places, which he said also included OSCE officials.

"Iowa law is very specific about who is permitted at polling places, and there is no exception for members of this group," Schultz said.

Ambassador Janez Lenarcic, the director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, wrote to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week about his concerns over the threats of prosecution.

"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."

The OSCE has observed elections in the United States since 2002.

"We think we have an excellent system to display to the world," Nuland said. "So we look forward to hosting the OSCE here this time. They are already operating in some 40 states."

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