Details Emerging for Foreign Observation of US Election

Kathleen Rhodes | Correspondent | Thursday, October 07, 2004

Details Emerging for Foreign Observation of US Election

( - They are either necessary to ensure fairness in this year's presidential election or they are a threat to U.S. national sovereignty, but regardless of your opinion, international election observers are finalizing plans to watch the American elections on Nov. 2.

The State Department invited the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to observe the elections. Now, the plan is for the group's representatives to be deployed in the U.S. between Oct. 30 and Election Day and stick around for a couple of extra days to provide an analysis of what went right and what, if anything, went wrong.

Barbara Haering, a member of parliament from Switzerland and appointed by OSCE to lead its observation of the U.S. elections, will meet with reporters Thursday in Washington, D.C., to explain how the group plans to conduct its work and why it is important.

Haering will be joined at the National Press Club news conference by Giovanni Kessler, a member of the Italian Parliament and professor Rita Sussmuth, a former member of the German Parliament.

Kessler is also the deputy director of the OSCE Election Observation Mission. Sussmuth will head the team from the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), which will actually be observing the U.S. elections.

In all, 50 parliamentarians from over 20 European countries will participate, scattering to various states in the days leading up to Election Day. Debriefings will follow on Nov. 3 and Haering plans to deliver a post-election evaluation on Nov. 4.

The State Department's decision to invite OSCE has been praised by the political left and blasted by conservatives.

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D- Texas) was one who had lobbied for U.N. election observers. "The presence of monitors will assure Americans that America cares about their votes and about its standing in the world," Johnson said.

OSCE spokeswoman Urdur Gunnarsdottir reportedly said in August that "the U.S. is obligated to invite us, as all OSCE countries should." She claimed that while no legal agreement has been made between the U.S. and the OSCE, "it's a political commitment. They signed a document 10 years ago to ask OSCE to observe elections."

But the American Policy Center (APC) objects to the prominent role Florida Democratic Congressman Alcee Hastings will play in the observation, largely because Hastings was once removed from the federal bench by Congress after a bribery and perjury scandal.

According to APC, Hastings' comments about the Bush administration, including an allegation that the president's re-election team would "try to steal this election," jeopardize his impartiality.

Hastings is also a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, a group still scornful of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to stop Florida's presidential ballot recount in 2000 that effectively awarded the election to Bush.

In July, Hastings introduced legislation to correct "the existing process for the certification of the presidential election."

APC president Tom DeWeese has labeled the OSCE observation process a threat to democracy, warning that if this year's election is as close as the one in 2000, Hastings and the foreign monitors will "do everything in their power to affect the outcome to their liking."

U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) has said that any foreign observation of the U.S. election as a whole will violate America's national sovereignty and the principle of federalism.

Paul has argued that "Under Article II, presidential elections -- as opposed to congressional elections -- are run by the states themselves ... Therefore the invitation was not Secretary [of State Colin] Powell's to extend."

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