- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 2, 2004

ORLANDO, Fla. — European election monitors touring central Florida were dismayed yesterday at their local hosts’ emphasis on Democratic events, saying their schedule of pro-Kerry and left-leaning themes has left little time for similar Republican visits.

The day started with a small airport rally for Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry, who appeared to promise a senior member of the delegation that he would commit to reforming federal election processes.

The four-member delegation of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) also listened to filmmaker Michael Moore address the League of Conservation Voters and visited a polling station in Sanford, Fla., which was the site of voting irregularities four years ago.

“I would say we are dismayed,” said Bart Tommelein, a Belgian congressman, of missing a Bush campaign rally that coincided with their arrival here Saturday evening.

“We are neutral, you know, and we really should be spending more time with the other side.”

Other OSCE observers concurred.

The group, which has been shuttled around Orlando in cars with Kerry-Edwards bumper stickers yesterday, rebelled against a planned visit to a campaign rally for Democratic Senate hopeful Betty Castor, who is running against former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez.

But the Republicans, at least in Florida, have not been so welcoming to the observers.

The group attempted to visit Bush headquarters in Orlando, but they were abruptly turned away by Republican Party officials who said their volunteers were “too focused on getting out the vote” to be distracted by the foreign monitors.

“I got an e-mail at, like, midnight, saying we did not want to do this,” said Todd Sykes, the Republican field director for Orange County, as he moved the startled election monitors toward the office door.

When Carina Christensen, a Conservative Party member of the Danish Parliament, asked about Republican campaign events in the area, Mr. Sykes told her that Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was speaking downtown and suggested that the OSCE monitors “leave now” to catch it.

A campaign volunteer later went out to the parking lot and, while local police looked on, talked about voting complexities with some of the monitors.

“Why would foreign election observers want to go to Bush-Cheney headquarters in Orlando?” said Republican Party spokesman Joseph Agostini from Tallahassee. “If Kerry-Edwards want to welcome them with tea and cookies, well, that’s terrific. But if they’re here to observe polling, this has nothing to do with polling.”

Mr. Agostini stressed that any “registered” observer was free to watch the voting, “but to us, international monitors are a peripheral issue.”

After several telephone calls, the OSCE monitors were permitted to visit a second Republican office yesterday afternoon.

Story Continues →