Europe Has 'Grave Concern' Over Texas' Election Threat
AUSTIN (CN) - The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe on Wednesday expressed "grave concern" over the Texas attorney general's threat to arrest and criminally prosecute OSCE election observers if they come within 100 feet of polling places on Election Day.
The OSCE said Texas's threat "is at odds with the established good co-operation between OSCE/ODIHR [Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights] observers and state authorities across the United States, including Texas."
Ambassador Janez Lenarcic, director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights in Warsaw, wrote to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about his concerns on Wednesday.
"The threat of criminal sanctions against OSCE/ODIHR observers is unacceptable," Lenarcic wrote. "The United States, like all countries in the OSCE, has an obligation to invite ODIHR observers to observe its elections."
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott on Tuesday threatened to arrest and prosecute OSCE observers if they come within 100 feet of a polling place on Election Day.
Abbott said that the OSCE has no jurisdiction in Texas.
"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," Abbott wrote.
"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."
Abbott's letter concludes: "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."
Lenarcic replied that Abbott's concerns are "groundless."
"Our observers are required to remain strictly impartial and not to intervene in the voting process in any way," Lenarcic said in a statement.
"They are in the United States to observe these elections, not to interfere in them."
Texas Gov. Rick Perry tweeted on Tuesday: "No UN monitors/inspectors will be part of any TX election process; I commend @TXsecofstate for swift action to clarify issue."