Texas Attorney General Threatens to Arrest Election Observers

Friday, October 26, 2012
Greg Abbott

European officials planning to observe polling places on Election Day next month face being thrown in jail by Texas’s top law enforcement official.


The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), which includes the U.S. as a member, announced recently that it will send election observers to monitor voting precincts around the country. The decision was made after OSCE received warnings from groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, that conservative groups and Republicans may try to deny minorities their right to vote on November 6.


Texas is among the states where OSCE plans to send observers. But Attorney General Greg Abbott vehemently objects to the idea, and has threatened to arrest and prosecute them if they appear within 100 feet of polling places.


“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,” Abbott wrote in a letter to OSCE. “However, groups and individuals from outside the United States are not allowed to influence or interfere with the election process in Texas.”


Ambassador Janez Lenarcic, director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) in Warsaw, responded by saying: “The threat of criminal sanctions against OSCE/ODIHR observers is unacceptable. The United States, like all countries in the OSCE, has an obligation to invite ODIHR observers to observe its elections.”


Despite the fuss and Abbott’s threats, the fact is that OSCE observers have monitored U.S. elections regularly since 2002 without incident.


Texas lawmakers have been accused of trying to deny certain voters their ability to cast ballots by adopting a voter identification law. That statute was struck down by a federal appeals court in August after the judges concluded it would disenfranchise minorities and the poor.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Europe Has 'Grave Concern' Over Texas' Election Threat (by David Lee, Courthouse News Service)

Texas A.G. Threatens to Arrest European Election Observers (by David Lee, Courthouse News Service)

Letter to Ambassador Daan Everts (Attorney General Greg Abbott) (pdf)

International Observers to Monitor U.S. Election for Voter Suppression (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)


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