The U.S. regularly sends observers to monitor elections in other countries and this year America is being scrutinized in return. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has announced that it is sending up to 480 observers to “follow the electoral process countrywide.” Even Russia is considering sending observers, according to a representative for the Russian Embassy. However, not everyone is happy about foreign observers monitoring the U.S. election.
In addition to the election observers from OSCE, there will be observers from the Organization of American States, the United Nations and a variety of individual countries such as Germany, France, Serbia, Belarus, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan.
Some states prohibit foreign observers
Thirteen states expressly forbid foreign observers from watching the polls. In the majority of other states, the decision is left up to the discretion of the state or local election officials. The presence of foreign observers has led to some confrontations, as not all election officials welcome inspection from international observers. In 2012, Texas threatened to arrest and prosecute any representatives from OSCE that approached Texas voting locations.
The flashpoint in past cycles has been attempts by international observers to enter polling places or maintain a presence near voting sites in states where such missions are not authorized or permitted by state law. We’ve provided the OSCE mission leaders with information on the states in this camp, so now it’s up to them to abide by the law while they’re in the U.S. — Kay Stimson, National Association of Secretaries of State
U.S. sends observers to other countries
For years, the U.S. has sent election observers to countries with a less than stellar record in the democratic process. American observers have issued criticisms of the election procedures in other nations, and the American observers have occasionally created resentment in the host country.
Some U.S. election officials welcome the international observers feeling that it helps the entire world move towards a more democratic voting process, while others believe that it is an insult to the U.S. election process to have foreign observers overseeing an American election.
In the U.S. both political parties are permitted to have observers at polling places and vote counting locations. The federal government also sends out observers if they perceive threats to provisions of the federal Voting Rights Act. This year the Department of Justice has announced that 500 election monitors will be sent to monitor the election in twenty-eight states.
Election observers detect and deter fraud, giving voters confidence in the integrity of their democracy. Monitors watch voting and ballot-counting to ensure that election laws are followed and to quickly and publicly identify problems. In the months before Election Day, observers scrutinize such relevant tasks as voter registration. — The Washington Post
Both campaigns have raised concerns about potential interference with the 2016 election. Republican Donald Trump has warned his supporters of a “rigged” election and Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration have accused the Russian government of trying to influence the outcome of the U.S. election.