Election 2012

Ohio says ‘no’ to international observers in polling places

Ohio says 'no' to international observers in polling places

COLUMBUS, Ohio — International observers may be in the United States on Election Day, but they will not be inside Ohio polling places, and the organization says it will honor state law.

Earlier this week, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted announced that international observers, affiliated with the United Nations, would not be allowed in Ohio polling centers, citing state laws that limit who is present in polling places on Election Day.

Other states, including Iowa and Texas, have also objected to the international observers. Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz said he welcomes the monitors to Iowa, but he warned against trying to “gain access” to Iowa polling sites on Election Day, according to Fox News. And, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, in a letter to the OSCE, threatened to prosecute any observer who breaks state law by getting too close to any polling site.  Read m

The Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE) plans to have poll observers throughout the United States on Tuesday. The OSCE is based and meets in Vienna, Austria, and is considered a regional partner organization of the United Nations, pursuant to Chapter VIII of the U.N. Charter.

In an Oct. 9 statement, the organization said, “The limited election observation mission’s deployment follows an invitation from the authorities of the United States. As a participating State in the OSCE, the United States has committed itself to conducting elections in line with OSCE standards and inviting international election observers.”

The OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights has been involved in observing elections in the United States since 2002.

The office explains, “Observers will assess these elections for compliance with international obligations and standards for democratic elections, including the commitments agreed to by all the OSCE participating States, and with national legislation.”

In Ohio, Secretary of State Jon Husted issued an October 29 advisory explaining who is allowed in the polling place, stating:  “State law limits the individuals who are permitted to be present in a polling place on Election Day. Only an election official, an observer, a police officer, a person reviewing the 11 a.m. or 4 p.m. list of registered electors, a voter (including the voter’s children who are of non-voting age when accompanied by the voter), or a person assisting another person to vote shall be allowed to enter the polling place during the election.”

Furthermore, Husted clarified, “By not including international observers and others not specifically listed in state law, the Ohio General Assembly has prohibited their presence in a polling place on Election Day.”

Giovanna Maiola from the OSCE responded to our email questions, saying, “…United States citizens are regularly involved in OSCE missions to observe elections in other OSCE countries.

“If international observers are prevented by state law from entering or coming within a certain distance of polling stations, our observers will comply with the law, as they are required to do by the ODIHR code of conduct for election observers.

“…The lack of access to polling stations for international observers in some states is not in line with the United States’ international commitments, and we have noted this in past final reports issued by observation missions.”

Sara Marie Brenner is a freelance writer and blogger in Ohio and a member of the Powell, Ohio, City Council.

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