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Thirteen Democrats in the House first sent a letter in July to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan asking that the world body monitor the U.S. election. But under U.N. guidelines, the official written request for electoral assistance must come from a representative of the “member state” or “national electoral authorities” — meaning the Bush administration itself, not the legislature.

The GOP-controlled House last month passed an amendment to a foreign-aid bill barring federal officials from using money to ask the United Nations to observe the Nov. 2 election. Rep. Steve Buyer, Indiana Republican and sponsor of the amendment, fiercely opposed U.N. participation.

“For over 200 years, this nation has conducted elections fairly and impartially, ensuring that each person’s vote will count. … Imagine going to your polling place on the morning of November 2 and seeing blue-helmeted foreigners inside your local library, school or fire station. The United Nations has sent monitors to Haiti, Nicaragua, Angola, Mozambique … and now the United States?” Mr. Buyer said on July 15.

“The constitutional authority to ensure the integrity of U.S. elections rests with the states and the Congress. … This amendment merely seeks to keep it that way,” he added.

The Democrats then requested monitors through the State Department in a letter to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell.

“I am pleased that Secretary Powell is as committed as I am to a fair and democratic process,” Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, Texas Democrat, said after the State Department announced it would allow observers. “The presence of monitors will assure Americans that America cares about their votes and it cares about its standing in the world.”

Mr. Bush also weighed in yesterday on the subject during a question-and-answer period at the Unity minority journalists convention in Washington.

“Look, I can understand why African Americans, in particular, are worried about being able to vote, since the vote had been denied for so long in the South, in particular. I understand that. And this administration wants everybody to vote,” Mr. Bush said.

“Just don’t focus on Florida. Now, I’ll talk to the governor down there to make sure it works,” he said to laughter, referring to his brother, Gov. Jeb Bush. “But it’s the whole country. … Voter-registration files need to be updated, the machines need to work. And that’s why there’s $3 billion in the budget to help. … Obviously, everybody ought to have a vote.”