Thursday, August 13, 2020

Wanted: Non-partisan Election Observers to Protect Our Democracy

Worried about the integrity of the United States' November presidential election?  So are our peer countries the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).  In June of this year, at the invitation of the State Department, the OSCE sent a preliminary team to determine whether monitoring was warranted. Their conclusion?  They recommended sending up to 500 short-term and long-term observers. Recruitment of those observers, who must come from outside the U.S., was completed earlier this month.  

The OSCE preliminary report also expressed concern that the U.S. had done little to respond to the group's prior recommendations on election integrity. Notably, non-partisan observers are not allowed for federal elections in a number of states. The OSCE preliminary report expressed particular concern regarding voter intimidation. This November, for the first time in decades, Republican poll-watchers will be allowed on the premises, with the explicit mission of challenging hapless individuals attempting to cast their ballots; the 30-year consent decree that barred this activity because of a record of Republican voter intimidation expired in 2018. 

Non -partisan election observers can provide an important check on efforts to undermine democratic elections. But with the complexity of the U.S. system, and the partisan onslaught on voting during a pandemic -- beginning with undercutting the mails themselves -- will the situation prove to be too much for observers to handle? In the end, we must save our own democracy, but human rights activists in the U.S. should do what we can to ensure that the OSCE's election observers are heard as part of that process.

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