International Observers Barred From Ohio Polling Places


State law forbids international observers from entering Ohio polling places, Secretary of State Jon Husted explained in an October 29 advisory. Election observers from the UN-affiliated Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) will not be permitted within 100 feet of Ohio polling places.

“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,” Husted wrote.

“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.”

A June 13, 2012 directive from Husted clarified that with the exception of recounts, only “qualified electors in the State of Ohio” may serve as election observers.

Houston-based elections integrity group True The Vote, whose own efforts have been under assault from liberal politicians and activists, recently expressed concern that OSCE election monitors were being manipulated into supporting claims that accurate voter rolls, volunteer poll watchers, and strong voter ID laws amount to voter suppression.

In comments to Media Trackers, True The Vote President Catherine Engelbrecht said it was “unfortunate that the OSCE is being exploited for partisan purposes.”

Earlier this month, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott advised that OSCE observers will be held subject to the state’s elections laws, and will therefore be required to remain at least 100 feet away from official polling places. Similar requirements for partisan campaigners, election candidates, and other unofficial participants exist in most states’ election laws.

“It is a legitimate concern that the OSCE and voters themselves will give too much credence to exaggerated claims that voter-ID laws disenfranchise voters,” John Fund wrote in an October 29 story at National Review Online. “Evidence shows that voter-ID laws do not decrease minority turnout. Georgia has had a photo-ID law for more than five years, and in both the 2008 and 2010 elections, the turnout of African Americans and Hispanic voters rose dramatically nationwide, and the rate of increase in Georgia was even greater.”

“In the past, the OSCE observers have issued solid reports that relied neither on hearsay nor on anecdotal evidence,” Fund added, noting that the 2004 report was appropriately skeptical of claims from liberal groups and journalists that election integrity efforts promoted by groups like True The Vote result in voter suppression.

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