- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 25, 2012

European officials planning to monitor the U.S. presidential election are howling about intimidation, after they got a blunt warning this week: If you mess with Texas, you might end up in jail.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott wrote to Ambassador Daan Everts, a Dutch diplomat and head of the European observer team for the Nov. 6 vote, to tell him to keep his bureaucrats away from polling places in the Lone Star State.

Mr. Abbott warned Mr. Everts that foreign election monitors would break Texas law if they enter a voting station. He also cautioned the diplomat to make sure his people stay at least 100 feet away from polling places.

Mr. Everts’ boss, Slovenian diplomat Janez Lenarcic, reacted with outrage, sending letters to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and releasing statements.

“The threat of criminal actions against [European] observers is unacceptable,” said Mr. Lenarcic, director of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

“The United States, like all countries in the OSCE, has an obligation to invite [European] observers to observe its elections,” he insisted.

The U.S. is one of 56 member nations of the OSCE, which was created in the 1970s to promote economic cooperation and human rights, especially in the East European nations then dominated by the Soviet Union.

Former President George W. Bush first invited OSCE observers to monitor U.S. elections in 2002, but this year’s mission is the largest ever, with 57 officials from the OSCE and another 100 from the organization’s Parliamentary Assembly.

The Texas attorney general observes the election mission with suspicion, accusing the OSCE diplomats of cozying up to left-wing groups such as Project Vote and Acorn, which has seen several of its associates prosecuted for voter fraud.

In his letter to the OSCE, Mr. Abbott complained that the European officials have denounced voter identification laws, like the one in Texas, “as a barrier to the right to vote.”

“The OSCE may be entitled to its opinions about voter-ID laws, but your opinion is legally irrelevant in the United States, where the Supreme Court has already determined that voter-ID laws are constitutional,” he said.

Mr. Abbott also warned the Europeans against violating Texas elections laws.

“The OSCE’s representatives are not authorized by Texas law to enter a polling place,” he said. “It may be a criminal offense for OSCE’s representatives to maintain a presence within 100 feet of a polling place’s entrance. Failure to comply with these requirements could subject the OSCE’s representatives to criminal prosecution for violating state law.”

In his response to Mr. Abbott’s letter, Mr. Lenarcic insisted that his observers are strictly neutral.

“They are in the United States to observe these elections, not to interfere with them,” he said.

A modest observation

The U.S. ambassador to Sierra Leone is facing a backlash of criticism after making a mild comment on the likelihood of a runoff election because two top presidential candidates have such strong support going into the Nov. 17 contest.

Ambassador Michael Owen noted in a radio interview this week that President Ernest Koroma and his main opponent, Julius Maada Bio, have “good support.”

Mr. Owen added, “I am convinced the elections will be peaceful.”

His modest observation brought an outraged reaction from another presidential candidate, Mohamed Bangura, who demanded an apology, and from commentator Ahmed M. Kamara, who called for Mr. Owen to be recalled to the United States.

Mr. Bangura called Mr. Owen’s remarks “reckless and undiplomatic.”

Voters in the West African nation are preparing for the third national election after an 11-year civil war that claimed 120,000 lives ended in 2002.

• Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or email [email protected] The column is published on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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