News Column

ACLU Responds in Texas Independent Poll-watchers Case

Oct. 25, 2012

Officials from the American Civil Liberties Union issued a response to Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott's open letter that states he would prosecute any observers from an international group who tried to interfere with the general election.

ACLU Voting Rights Project Director Laughlin McDonald said in a news release that neutral observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe are a "regular and vital part of the process" that helps ensure "we have a fair and functioning election system."

"Instead of threatening them with criminal prosecution, Texas should be welcoming additional neutral observers," McDonald said. "After all, this is a state with a history of discriminatory voting measures and a voter ID law that threatens minorities' fundamental right to vote."

Two members of the OSCE reportedly visited with the Texas Secretary of State's office at an unspecified time and discussed general background questions about the Texas election process, Keith Ingram, director of elections division at the Texas Office of the Secretary of State, said in an email. Ingram reported the workers were told they would not be allowed into any polling locations or granted inspector status.

In response to the news of the international group observing the elections, a group the United States also belongs to, Abbott stated in an open letter to Ambassador Daan Everts, head of OSCE, stating anyone from the group who violated the Texas Elections Code would face prosecution.

The OSCE website states that the group has been observing elections in the United States since 2002.

Terri Burke, Executive Director of the ACLU of Texas, also issued a statement against Abbott's letter, saying she was "not surprised" by the attorney general's actions.

"Given the ongoing discrimination in voting federal courts have recently found in Texas -- it's adoption of racially biased redistricting plans and a photo ID requirement for voting -- I'm not surprised that some state officials don't want an independent organization to take a look at our elections," Burke said.

Source: (c)2012 the Odessa American (Odessa, Texas) Distributed by MCT Information Services

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