State Officials In Texas and Iowa Threaten International Monitors With Arrest In Seeking Access To Polling Areas

State officials in Texas and Iowa have succeeded in putting the United States in the company of countries like Iran and North Korea this week after pledging to block access of international observers with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) to polling places — even going as far as threatening to arrest the monitors. The actions are in direct violation with our long-standing position vis-a-vis other nations. It is a shameful position that, again, makes our country look like a hypocrites in demanding such monitoring in other countries but not allowing it in our own.


Greg Abbott, the Texas attorney general, sent a letter to the 57-member observer mission, warning that “the OSCE’s representatives are not authorized by Texas law to enter a polling place. It may be a criminal offense for OSCE’s representatives to maintain a presence within 100 feet of a polling place’s entrance.”

Thomas Rymer, a spokesman for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, has said that the group always abides by local election laws. He correctly notes however that the denial of access to polling areas suggested by these officials, and the threats of arrest, contradict our own obligations under international law. Both Texas and Iowa officials have threatened to arrest monitors from the OSCE who come within a certain distance to the polling places. In Texas, it is 100 feet. In Iowa it is an extraordinary 300 feet.

Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz insisted that “Iowa law is very specific about who is permitted at polling places, and there is no exception for members of this group.” In the 2008 election, international OSCE election observers were turned away from polling stations in Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Ohio and Texas as well has having problems in areas of Colorado, Louisiana, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

Admittedly, these monitors act under generally defined provisions but these states are undermining our ability to take such a position in the future in other countries.

Yet, lawyer and Fox News Anchor Greta Van Susteren has defended the threats against international monitors: “The election is none of their business. We ought to be able to police our own election.” Of course, that is precisely the same argument used in Iran, China, and other countries. It is another example of what is often referred to as “American Exceptionalism” that we are simply unique and above the rules that we apply to other nations.

Even though state law may be clear, it is up to the State Department to make known to the states any clear obligations under international agreements. Notably, these monitors have been in the United States after being invited in by George W. Bush — a correct and admirable decision.

Source: Politico

156 thoughts on “State Officials In Texas and Iowa Threaten International Monitors With Arrest In Seeking Access To Polling Areas

  1. I seek only the truth by which no man was ever harmed, but your choice to remain ignorant in the light of contrary information is your choice, Bron. It harms no one but yourself. Government is a construct – a machine – and it is whether you believe it is or not. A map is not a territory any more than a blueprint is a machine. Government is the bicycle, not the instructions. Your failure to grasp this certainly explains a lot of your other odious misconceptions about government though.

  2. Bron,

    Back again. We agree that both parties, for reasons of money which enables them to hold office, are prostituting their services to the business community.

    But getting government out (“You need to get government out of business altogether.”), I wonder if you mean out of regulating the business’ effect on the economic situation (house loans, consumer loans etc), and on the environmental effects, which ultimately and quite lethally effect our health—just to take two examples. Is that what you would do? I would not.

    I think that you need some help in enlightenment and do not feel that you need to be nailed up on GeneH’s cross.

    Now repeat after me: “Government is just like a good uncle, who protects me from exploiting businesses which would claim to provide products, but in fact charge me and my world so high a price, that if uncle did not stop them, they would soon own me and the world”.

    Try that in front of the morning mirror for a week and we will see if you feel a little better next week. Bood luck with your bettering!

  3. GeneH and others who read my previous comment just prior to this one.
    ===================================================

    I must retract my statement about GeneH’s crucifying cross, that was written after his initial insults to Bron, and before I had read the rest of his comments to him.
    He, for the rest, seemed inclined to use factual arguments instead of abuse.

    And now I will comment on one of GeneH’s analogies: government as as machine—-but first a quote:

    “Government is a construct – a machine – and it is whether you believe it is or not. A map is not a territory any more than a blueprint is a machine. Government is the bicycle, not the instructions. Your failure to grasp this certainly explains a lot of your other odious misconceptions about government though.”

    I would put another view on government, and all human based organizations for that matter.
    Govenment, and its organizations, if we address it, has laws which empower it, describe its intended functions, and is further described by founding documents and detailed instructions on how it shall function, to the detail that seems requisite according to current norms.

    All fine and good. This description does to some extent even include certain human factors type HR.

    But it DOES NOT include or perhaps conceals the organizations and empowerments which can be perverted.

    For example:
    Creating an IG function that is subject to control by those who it is intended to do IG functions on; which eliminates its functioning for the well-being of the citensry, and for the organization itself.

    It does NOT allow for the inevitable tendency of bureaucracy to grow. (other than highly visible and ineffectual Potemkin control constructions).

    It does NOT account for the organization’s need to corrupt, simply mislabel or even falsify the metrics it provides for Congressional oversight. Why should it do that, it needs to hide its own ineffectuallity or inefficiency. This allows for calling a contact a recruited agent, allows for falsified body counts, allows calling officers in training, destined for domestic service, to be reported to Congress as undercover agents in place—in response to the quite specific agreements that the billions being heaved at CIA post 9/11 were to be exclusively used to increase the number of undercover officers of the CIA.

    Simply put, bureaucracy has self-serving instructions. If these exist on paper then their true and perverted meaning is well-cocealed in bureaucratese.

    For example. creating multi-layer management structures, where automatically each manager requires an organization to manage or we have no need of him. Multi-layers diffuses the acountability for decisions and minimizes the career risks taken in making decisions. But in the case of the CIA, this was not enough, they even routinely said no to essentially riskfree operation clearly and previously defined as riskfree in training manuals.

    Bureaucracy requires the building of turf or function boundaries. Multiple organizations in the same (law enforcement) areas lead to needed opeations not being done due to blockage for turf ownership reasons, etc etc.

    This was long. I can not write concisely.
    But the problem is much larger than this attempt to describe it.

    I did not describe the leadership problem, the lobbying’s effects on mission accomplishment, the Congressional meddling even down to the district level, etc etc.

    A bicycle stands there, AND includes instruction and has a clear goal of which most agree upon.
    But the riders (bureaucrats) can still screw up and ride it into the ditch, leaving it to be a scrap heap to be led by hand, never reaching the place it was intended to be rapidly ridden to.

    Now I hope someone has a solution to this problem.
    But please don’t say: all we need are some honest men. Honest men seldom survive these jungles.
    Even an effective CIA chief can be shown to becoming worn our by the bureaucrats under him.

    How do the buraaucrats drag their feet on even explicit Presidential orders with deadlines and periodic reporting included (declass docs)?
    Don’t know, but they do.

  4. Gene H:

    you have not convinced me. Why do you think it is a machine? A machine has a very limited meaning. Just because something is man made doesnt mean it is a machine.

    And what about a corporation? Is that a machine? Or a school, is that a machine? Is society a machine?

  5. Active-duty service members disenfranchised by Fla. voter purge
    By Jake Miller
    CBS News/ November 3, 2012
    http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-34222_162-57544782/active-duty-service-members-disenfranchised-by-fla-voter-purge/

    Tampa-area resident and Navy captain Peter Kehring has spent more than 30 years in the U.S. military. But due to Florida GOP Gov. Rick Scott’s recent purge of voter rolls, Kehring will not be able to cast a vote on Election Day, reports Tampa CBS affiliate WTSP.

    Florida state law requires county election supervisors to regularly update voter rolls to remove felons, deceased individuals, and those who have moved out of the county. Voters who miss two consecutive general elections (2008 and 2010, for example) are sent a letter warning them they will be removed from eligibility unless they contact county officials.

    Kehring, who has been serving in the military abroad for the last five years, never got his letter.

    And he’s not alone: Kehring is among 30 active and reserve service members in the Tampa area who have contacted the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections office, according to WTSP.

    Unfortunately, Kehring notified the county officials too late: October 8 was the last day Florida residents can register to vote before the November general election.

    Kehring was not pleased. “It’s not just a right that I’ve earned by being an American,” he said. “I’ve (been) trying to protect our country and I really believe it’s a right I’m being denied.”

    He wants legislators to amend the law to prevent service members from being wrongly disenfranchised.

  6. Is True the Vote Intimidating Minority Voters From Going to the Polls?
    By DAN HARRIS and MELIA PATRIA
    Nov. 2, 2012
    http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/true-vote-intimidating-minority-voters-polls/story?id=17618823#.UJfD74btpF8

    Excerpt:
    Teresa Sharp, a homemaker and grandmother, has lived in Hamilton County, Ohio, for nearly 30 years. A former poll worker and a Democrat, she says she has voted in every election since she was 18.

    “Voting to me is, like, sacred, like my children,” she said. “It lets me at least have an opinion about how I want to live in America.”

    Sharp is keenly aware that her vote counts. Hamilton County, which includes Cincinnati, is hotly contested in a swing state that could decide this extraordinarily close presidential race. So naturally, Sharp was surprised when she received a letter in the mail that said, “You are hereby notified that your right to vote has been challenged by a qualified elector under RC 3503.243505.19.”

    “Nobody’s ever challenged me, especially my right to vote,” Sharp said. “I’m confused. I’m concerned and pretty darn mad.”

    Her husband, Herbert, her sons, Christopher and Herbert Jr., her daughters, Aseneth and Eleanor, and her elderly aunt, all residents at the same family home in Hamilton County, also received a similar letter.

    “I thought to myself that there’s somebody out here trying to scare people into not voting,” she said.

    The letter came from the county board of elections, and was prompted by an official challenge submitted by a member of The Ohio Voter Integrity Project, a local affiliate of a grassroots organization called True the Vote. The organization believes that voter fraud is a sweeping national epidemic and has enlisted and trained an army of citizen volunteers to challenge voters in the name of what they call “voter integrity.”

    Their promotional and recruitment videos talk about “willful, fraudulent behavior,” and, “people voting who are not who they said they were.” They said they address the important need to keep elections free and fair for all citizens.

    The goals sound admirable, and even patriotic, but Sharp and other Democrats say True the Vote is less about voter integrity than voter suppression, and is specifically meant to intimidate minorities, low-income people and students who might vote for President Obama.

    “I was like, ‘Whoa, why are they targeting my family? What did we do?'” said Sharp.

    While it is legal in 46 states for any citizen to challenge another citizen’s right to vote, election officials said, it very rarely happens.

    But this election cycle, the challenge against Sharp was among 1,077 citizen challenges received by the Hamilton County Board of Elections alone. The challenge against Sharp incorrectly cited her property as a vacant lot, but after a hearing Hamilton County election officials threw it out.

    Attempts to reach Marlene Kocher, the member of the local Integrity Project who challenged Sharp, were not successful. Other True the Vote volunteers declined to speak with us on camera.

  7. Editorial
    Voter Harassment, Circa 2012
    Published: September 21, 2012
    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/22/opinion/voter-harassment-circa-2012.html?_r=0

    This is how voter intimidation worked in 1966: White teenagers in Americus, Ga., harassed black citizens in line to vote, and the police refused to intervene. Black plantation workers in Mississippi had to vote in plantation stores, overseen by their bosses. Black voters in Choctaw County, Ala., had to hand their ballots directly to white election officials for inspection.

    This is how it works today: In an ostensible hunt for voter fraud, a Tea Party group, True the Vote, descends on a largely minority precinct and combs the registration records for the slightest misspelling or address error. It uses this information to challenge voters at the polls, and though almost every challenge is baseless, the arguments and delays frustrate those in line and reduce turnout.

    The thing that’s different from the days of overt discrimination is the phony pretext of combating voter fraud. Voter identity fraud is all but nonexistent, but the assertion that it might exist is used as an excuse to reduce the political rights of minorities, the poor, students, older Americans and other groups that tend to vote Democratic.

    In The Times on Monday, Stephanie Saul described how the plan works. True the Vote grew out of a Tea Party group in Texas, the King Street Patriots, with the assistance of Americans for Prosperity, a group founded by the Koch brothers that works to elect conservative Republicans. It has developed its own software to check voter registration lists against driver’s license and property records. Those kinds of database matches are notoriously unreliable because names and addresses are often slightly different in various databases, but the group uses this technique to challenge more voters.

    In 2009 and 2010, for example, the group focused on the Houston Congressional district represented by Sheila Jackson Lee, a black Democrat. After poring over the records for five months, True the Vote came up with a list of 500 names it considered suspicious and challenged them with election authorities. Officials put these voters on “suspense,” requiring additional proof of address, but in most cases voters had simply changed addresses. That didn’t stop the group from sending dozens of white “poll watchers” to precincts in the district during the 2010 elections, deliberately creating friction with black voters.

    On the day of the recall election of Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, the group used inaccurate lists to slow down student voting at Lawrence University in Appleton with intrusive identity checks. Three election “observers,” including one from True the Vote, were so disruptive that a clerk gave them two warnings, but the ploy was effective: many students gave up waiting in line and didn’t vote.

    True the Vote, now active in 30 states, hopes to train hundreds of thousands of poll watchers to make the experience of voting like “driving and seeing the police following you,” as one of the group’s leaders put it. (Not surprisingly, the group is also active in the voter ID movement, with similar goals.) These activities “present a real danger to the fair administration of elections and to the fundamental freedom to vote,” as a recent report by Common Cause and Demos put it.

    The Voting Rights Act of 1965 prohibits intimidation or interference in the act of voting, but the penalties are fairly light. Many states have tougher laws, but they won’t work unless law enforcement officials use them to crack down on the illegal activities — handed down from Jim Crow days — of True the Vote and similar groups.

  8. “And what about a corporation? Is that a machine? Or a school, is that a machine? Is society a machine?”

    Yes. And yes. All of our societal constructs are machines. They have inputs, perform work to a specific goal or set of goals and have outputs. Society itself though is more organic and less directed as it is composed of smaller tribal subunits that compete based on differing interests. But that is a natural dynamic. More analogous to natural selection than machinery. There is nothing natural about social constructs like governments, corporations or schools. They are designed, they have specific purpose(s) and they perform work. No pride of lions ever founded a government or built a school. A machine is an apparatus (the complex structure of a particular organization or system) using power and having several parts, each with a definite function and together performing a particular task. That is not an analogy but a perfect one to one description of how these societal constructs operate.

  9. gENE h:

    the animal kingdom has plenty of examples of complex social structures and of animals working together in a system.

  10. Bron,

    And almost none of them are engineered. They may be built but they are not designed (which is key term to the definition of engineered). Self-organizing behavior is apparent in societies as well as the natural world, but a hammer is not a carpenter. Just so, our social constructs are not society. They are tools of society, purpose designed and built just like that hammer. That being said, some animals are also tool users, but tool use (and creation) is one of the hallmark behaviors of higher intelligences. And when I say tool use in animals, let me be clear, I don’t mean found tools like otters using rocks to open molluscs. I mean where something natural has been taken and transformed specifically for utility like a primate using a stripped stick to dig out termites from a log.

  11. I want to return to the question of leadership in the running of our machines that we create.

    I have previously said to Bron that a position of power gives and requires the use of power. And the power of leadership of organizations often don’t stop at the organizational limit upwards, but extend into the realm of politics. And this is where societal effects are appreciated and decided on that basis.

    Let’s take the recent example here of “stop and frisk” laws implementation in NYC. We can regard it in two ways at least: bottom up or top down. Let’s begin with bottom up, the part we saw primarily exposed.

    We had a cop on the beat who had his “quota” of stops to turn in as written reports each time period. This was enforced by his performance reviewing officer and the example of the fate of other officers with low performance and their job assignments and promotion possibilities. And as we go in the hiearchy, we see the lieutenants who have their quotas and who competing for promotion will try to produce over quota results, thus perverting the original norms.

    This continues up the organization where the review and producution discussions will produce new novel methods or situations to increase the resutlts of the process and hopefully make the polititicians who approve budgets, perks, reward, salarý increases, etc will ge happy and generous.

    Well, what does the politician do. Bloomberg says that he promised law and order, primarily to corporations and merchants who suffer from crime and those dependent on NYS providing a nice experience to tourists.

    At this point I will withdraw for lack of facts. I am sure that MikeS could hop in and dissect these interworkings based on his NYC experience from the positions he held. So those with equivalent knowledge can please take over if you wish.

    BTW, I am sure that Bloomberg had help of his legal counsel as to the likelihood of challenge on various grounds, even Constitutional, and received a green light. Which means that potentially your local mayor can speak to his police chief with confidence after requisite ordinance approval by the city council.

    Such are our constitutional shield against “unreasonable search and seizure” worth in these times of wars on terrorism, thievery and on narcotic users. Importers of narcotics like H W Bush, get of course a blind eye to their alleged** narcotic activities.

    **Recent video posted here.

  12. Things in Politico That Don’t Make Me Want to Guzzle Antifreeze, White-People-Mandate Edition
    By Charles P. Pierce
    11/5/12
    http://www.esquire.com/blogs/politics/election-2012-demographics-14466312

    FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — In case you have misplaced you magic pundit decoder ring, the latest one-word euphemism for “Where The White Folk At?” is “demographics.” If the president wins, it will be because of “demographics,” which increasingly means, in Republican weaselspeak, that, despite the best efforts of our governors and secretaries of state, the wrong people are voting again. Or, as they put it around Casa Romney, The Help are revolting. Your Republican party may be a tribe of a single skin tone, but it is a tribe of many codes.

    As is usually the case, Politico whittled the problem right down to the nub, and then hit itself between the eyes repeatedly with the nub.

    If President Barack Obama wins, he will be the popular choice of Hispanics, African-Americans, single women and highly educated urban whites. That’s what the polling has consistently shown in the final days of the campaign. It looks more likely than not that he will lose independents, and it’s possible he will get a lower percentage of white voters than George W. Bush got of Hispanic voters in 2000.

    A broad mandate this is not.

    Bartender, a double Prestone, and make it snappy, my good man.

    Apparently, only people who look like John Harris and Jim VandeHei can be said to make up a “mandate.” (Remember, by the way, that this is the publication that got rid of Joe Williams for making the unremarkable statement that Willard Romney is more comfortable around white people. It is equally unremarkable to say that this also would seem to be the case with his former employers.) This is now part of the campaign dialogue. The panel with my man Chuck Todd chewed it over this morning, and only a very cynical person would suggest that this is the respectable objective-journalist parallel to the fact that the Republicans have been making things quite plain of late as to their belief that some people deserve the franchise, and that Certain People do not. Why, just yesterday, Romney was talking about how, if you voted for him, you “shouldn’t expect” a check from the government.

    All of this would be a nifty little sociological discussion if it weren’t taking place within a country in which a substantial block of the population, and its elected representatives, have worked to delegitmize the president based on his race. And you’d have to be blind, deaf, or sensible enough not to be watching cable television news, not to see that “demographics” isn’t already halfway to being the primary explanation, behind the superstorm, behind a Romney loss. And it’s certainly not surprising to note that, once that becomes a legitimate part of the post-election narrative, the permanent sense of victimization on the part of the “demographics” so beloved by the editors of Politico will be more intense, and not less.

    Of course, should Romney win, and the other parts of the “demographics” start shouting about voter-suppression and the mysterious coincidence of how the incompetence of local election officials always seems to occur in precincts where Certain People vote, the same people will completely ignore them, and tell them that it’s time for them to line up behind our new president because that’s the way we do things in America.

    Just another day in the World’s Greatest Democracy.

  13. Thanks for the reminder of Charles P. Pierce. He probably has at least 3 other blogs waiting to be enjoyed. I barely have the time/intelligence to read all the links posted here, much less know where they stand politically. It was therefore interesting to see that he disses Politico—a site linked often here.

    Anyone object to that.?

    Thanks to ElaineM for keeping this thread going.
    Or has it been replaced by another “election news” thread?

    Anyone else see a little gonzojournalism there?

  14. New Evidence Shows Poll Watching Efforts Target Minority Precincts
    By Dan Froomkin
    Posted: 11/05/2012
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/05/poll-watching_n_2078563.html

    Excerpt:
    Poll watchers from groups ostensibly targeting voter fraud are headed primarily to minority voting precincts on Election Day, lending support to the argument that their real goal is to suppress the African-American and Latino vote.

    A partial list of precincts targeted by a Pittsburgh Tea Party group working on behalf of the Republican Party shows that nearly 80 percent of the voters in those precincts are African-American, compared to 13 percent countywide, according to civil rights and union groups who on Monday called on the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate.

    An Ohio political blog is reporting that forms submitted to election officials by Tea Party spin-off group True the Vote in Franklin County — which includes Columbus — show poll watchers heading to 28 precincts, where most voters are African-American. Overall, the county electorate is 20 percent African-American.

    “We’ve been concerned from the beginning that the efforts of True the Vote and aligned groups were going to be targeted largely in communities of color,” said Eric Marshall, manager of legal mobilization for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “We’ve seen in the past where these kinds of tactics can lead to intimidation and harassment of voters.”

    A potentially even greater concern now is that the groups will use the voter challenge process “for the express purpose of creating lines and confusion,” Marshall said.

    Prohibitively long lines, particularly where Democrats are in the majority, are a net plus for Republicans; extraordinarily long lines for early voting in South Florida resulted from Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s rollback of early voting days there.

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