Texas threatens to arrest international voting monitors

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The Texas attorney general has threatened to arrest international voting monitors who come within 100 feet of polling places in his state on Nov. 6.

The global human rights watchdog Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe observes elections around the world to report irregularities and voter suppression. But Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott warned that observers in his state are subject to Texas state law, not federal law or international agreements. In the past, Texas Gov. Rick Perry has said he’d like for Texas to secede from the United States.

The Vienna-based group responded with a statement saying, “The United States, like all countries in the OSCE, has an obligation to invite . . . observers to observe its elections.”

Still, Abbot told Reuters news service on Wednesday that he’s considering legal action against the group under Texas law. “Our concern is that this isn’t some benign observation but something intended to be far more prying and maybe even an attempt to suppress voter integrity,” he said.

He cited reports that OSCE monitors had met with organizations challenging voter identification laws. Earlier this year, a federal appeal court blocked Texas’ restrictive voter ID law, designed to limit poll access to Hispanics, African-Americans, students, poor people, and the elderly. Abbott has said he will appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.

If the law is enacted, it would affect an estimated 700,000 Latino voters, according to democracy advocates.

The 56-member OSCE routinely sends monitors to elections and noted November’s elections would be the sixth U.S. vote that ODIHR has observed “without incident” since 2002. For next month’s elections, it has a core team of 13 experts from 10 OSCE countries based in Washington and 44 long-term observers deployed across the country.

GOP voter suppression efforts, guised as attempts to prevent voter fraud, have become one of the hottest issues surrounding elective politics this year. Another issue like to emerge is the close connection between Republicans and companies that manufacture voting machines. As the Washington Post reported yesterday:

“Hart InterCivic is an Austin-based voting machine company that serves local governments nationwide. Its clients include Hamilton County, Ohio, which administers elections in Cincinnati. Hart InterCivic also has in its DNA just enough traces of Bain & Co. and Mitt Romney campaign donors to trigger serious angst in the liberal blogosphere about the fate of Ohio’s must-have 18 electoral votes.

“Versions of the story have appeared in the Free Press, an Ohio Web site, in addition to Salon and a liberal blog carried by Forbes. In a nutshell: Three of Hart’s five corporate board members are executives of HIG Capital, a global private-equity firm that made what it called a ‘significant’ investment in Hart last year. Four HIG executives (Tony Tamer, John Bolduc, Douglas Berman and Brian D. Schwartz) have been identified as Romney bundlers by independent watchdog groups such as the Sunlight Foundation.

“HIG employees as a whole have donated $338,000 this year to the campaign of the Republican presidential nominee, according to Open Secrets. Three of them (Tamer, Berman and Bolduc) used to work at Bain. Among the investors in HIG is Solamere Capital, a private-equity firm run by Tagg Romney, one of the candidate’s sons.

“The implication in some of the news media coverage is that through these links, Romney will have some leverage over the vote count in Ohio.”