Texas Threatens Election Monitors With Arrest

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott is yet again in hot water today after threatening international election observers with jail time on Wednesday. This came after he sent a sternly written letter to the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, a division of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe on Tuesday.

His letter to the OSCE/ODIHR reads as follows:

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) will reportedly dispatch election observers to the State of Texas to monitor the November 2012 general election. While it remains unclear exactly what your monitoring is intended to achieve, or precisely what tactics you will use to achieve the proposed monitoring, OSCE has stated publicly that it will visit polling stations on Election Day as part of its monitoring plan.
In April, you reportedly met with a group of organizations that have filed lawsuits challenging election integrity laws enacted by the Texas Legislature. One of those organizations, Project Vote, is closely affiliated with ACORN, which collapsed in disgrace after its role in a widespread voter-registration fraud scheme was uncovered. In September, a federal appeals court rejected Project Vote’s challenge to the State’s voter-registration regulations and allowed Texas to continue enforcing laws that were enacted to protect the integrity of the voter-registration process.
According to a letter that Project Vote and other organizations sent to you, OSCE has identified Voter ID laws as a barrier to the right to vote. That letter urged OSCE to monitor states that have taken steps to protect ballot integrity by enacting Voter ID laws. The OSCE may be entitled to its opinions about Voter ID laws, but your opinion is legally irrelevant in the United States, where the Supreme Court has already determined that Voter ID laws are constitutional.
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. However, groups and individuals from outside the United States are not allowed to influence or interfere with the election process in Texas.
This State has robust election laws that were carefully crafted to protect the integrity of our election system. All persons—including persons connected with OSCE—are required to comply with these laws.
Elections and election observation are regulated by state law. The Texas Election Code governs anyone who participates in Texas elections—including representatives of the OSCE. 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. Failure to comply with these requirements could subject the OSCE’s representatives to criminal prosecution for violating state law.

AG Abbott in this letter makes several assertions which are either misleading, or flat-out lies.

One example, the Supreme Court decision on Voter ID laws (CRAWFORD ET AL. v. MARION COUNTY ELECTION BOARD) ruled that Voter ID is constitutional under a set of conditions put down by the majority decision written by Justice John Paul Stevens in 2008. Those conditions are:

  • The IDs must be free
  • The IDs must be available to everyone
  • The IDs must not require a burdensome amount of paperwork to obtain

The statement from AG Abbott implies that Voter ID requirements are uniformly constitutional, when the Supreme Court is clear that it is not, that they are constitutional only under set conditions, which the Texas Voter ID requirements do not match, requiring payment for the ID as well as restricting access to them.

Next, Project Vote, also known as Voting for America Inc, is not closely affiliated with the defunct group ACORN. They did coördinate voter registration drives with multiple organizations, including ACORN, so as to prevent overlapping efforts, but no affiliation exists between the groups. In addition, the cases filed by Project Vote were not rejected, and as recently as last week Project Vote has forced Texas election officials to overturn voting restrictions which targeted minority populations. The closest AG Abbott can come is that a preliminary injunction was denied, but that was not a ruling or rejection of the case in its entirety as his letter implies. And another court case had already put an injunction in place regardless, so Mr Abbott was making a very loud and inaccurate statement, to say the least.

As for them not being allowed within 100 feet of a polling place, he is citing Texas Election Statute 61, which does prohibit loitering or the use of electronic devices within 100 feet of a polling place. There is an exception to this, found in section 33 of the Texas Election statutes, Poll Watchers. Under normal conditions, the observers would fall under this category. I suspect however that AG Abbott is going to ignore this provision of the law.

Lastly, under the treaties the United States has signed, these election monitors do in fact have the right to observe our elections. The US Constitution does override treaties, of course, but the right to observe an election and report is not prohibited by the US Constitution. As a result, the election observers do, in fact, have the right under US Law through the treaties we have agreed upon, treaties which the Senators from Texas at the time, Lloyd Bentsen and Phil Graham signed I would note.

AG Abbott has a lot riding on this election. He is on the short list of names for a Romney cabinet, suggested as Romney’s choice for the director of the EPA. Considering the number of lawsuits that the Texas Attorney General has lost suing the EPA to prevent any kind of regulations in the state, this would be akin to appointing Al Capone as head of the IRS.

The inability of Gregory Abbott to obey the laws of this nation and his bravado demonstrate that he cares nothing for the people he is sworn to protect. Now he has turned to threats against our international partners in order to try and win for himself special treatment and rewards. This conflict of interest is beyond absurd, and it is about time the people of Texas realize that their Attorney General does not care about his job at all.