Election Officials in Ohio and Florida Fail to Give Poll Access to International Election Observers
Observers Say Election Day Transparency Is Key to Voter Confidence in the Process
A group of distinguished international election experts who will observe the Nov. 2 U.S. election have not yet received responses from some local electoral officials in Ohio and Florida to their requests to observe polling sites on election day. The observers hope that their requests will receive a positive response, pointing out that non-partisan domestic and international observation is practiced worldwide as a way of creating transparency and boosting voter confidence.
The election observers are part of a non-partisan, non-governmental delegation sponsored by the human rights group Global Exchange. A 20-person pre-electoral observation team was in the U.S. Sept. 13-27 investigating a range of issues in Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Missouri, Ohio and Washington, D.C. A second team of 14 observers from 10 countries will arrive in the U.S. on October 29 to observe through election day.
The international observation team has already received permission from officials in Boone County, Missouri, the City of St. Louis, and Leon County, Florida—where Tallahassee is located—to observe polls and tabulation centers. In Cuyahoga County—home of Cleveland, OH—the observers have permission to observe the tabulation center.
But officials in Franklin County, Ohio and Ft. Lauderdale, Broward, and Miami-Dade counties in Florida have not responded to repeated requests to allow international observation. At the same time, Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell has refused poll access to the independent observers invited by Global Exchange while offering access to observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). "From my long experience of international election observation, my suspicions are immediately aroused when officials appear to want to deny observers access to polling sites," said Owen Thomas, Chief Executive of Electoral Reform Services in London and himself a former OSCE observer. "Experience in countries around the world has shown that the presence of outside, non-partisan observers can play a key role in boosting voter confidence. Transparency at the polls and tabulation centers is key to that confidence. International observation throws light on the workings of democracy. Why would anyone be against that?"
In its recent report on electoral conditions in the U.S., the first team of observers noted that partisan administration of elections is not the international norm and recommended opening the voting process to non-partisan observers. The observers wrote: "The delegation strongly endorses the recommendations of the OSCE, the Carter Center for Human Rights, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and other experts bodies that call for independent, non-partisan poll watchers, both domestic and international, to be welcomed at the polls and tabulation centers in 2004 and beyond."
To learn more about the independent, non-governmental, international observation of the U.S. elections, please visit: www.fairelection.us. ###