Originally published November 5, 2012 at 5:41 p.m., updated November 6, 2012 at 10:02 a.m.
International election observers are being told to stay away from polling sites in Texas and Arizona. State election officials are threatening the observers with arrest if they show up at the polls.
SAN ANTONIO, Texas International election observers are being told to stay away from polling sites in Texas and Arizona. Texas election officials are threatening the observers with arrest if they show up at the polls.
For the last decade the United Nations-affiliated Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has directly observed elections in the United States -- but not this Election Day in Texas or Arizona.
“I can’t really tell you where they’ll be, but I can tell you they won’t be in polling stations," said OSCE spokesperson Thomas Rymer.
Last month Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott sent the group a letter saying they would be arrested if they enter Texas polling stations. Abbott went on Fox News to explain why.
“And we need to make sure in Texas we don’t have ACORN-style voter fraud and we don’t take any kind of shine to this European group thinking they can come in and monitor elections in the state,” he said.
Abbott is also using the issue to raise money for his political war chest. He sent a fundraising email to supporters titled "Don’t Mess With Texas Elections."
But Rymer said they weren’t about to mess with anything.
"As far as having a specific agenda on certain issues, it’s important to remember that we’re not the election police in any way," Rymer said.
Still, Rymer knows that Abbott is serious about keeping the observers from observing.
“If they get closer than 100 feet to a polling place then they are committing a crime in the state of Texas and we intend to prosecute,” Abbott said.
In Arizona, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery has also issued a release warning international election observers to keep away from the polls.
“While we certainly appreciate the interest from foreign citizens who want to observe our democracy in action, we must be mindful of the statutory guarantees that protect and facilitate our right to vote,” Montgomery said in a press release. “The law is very clear on public access to polling places and I encourage any guests from out of town to become familiar with it."
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been modified to reflect that Arizona did not threaten foreign observers in the same manner that Texas did. The Maricopa County Attorney's Office issued a reminder of the polling place procedure statutes directed at foreign observers.