The international community, through a number of organizations, regularly observes elections in countries around the world. Election observation is one method of preventing election disputes from evolving into violent conflict, particularly in countries with less developed or less trusted judicial systems. The hope is that election observation by neutral outsiders will provide a peaceful forum for election related disputes as these observers evaluate how well the election did, or did not, comply with international standards. And, many election observers will say that they think that their presence at polling places, simply watching (never talking or interfering) can have a calming effect and has helped to prevent abuses and violations.
I spent a total of five years working for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) which, among other things, is the leading election observation organization in the world. In the OSCE’s early years of election observation, after the end of the Soviet Union, many of the observation missions were centered in newer democracies. Election observation missions are now also routinely conducted in established democracies, such as the United States.
Unfortunately, at least a few politicians in Texas seem unaware of this history and of the fact that U.S. promotion of election observation has always been non-partisan with both Republicans and Democrats fully supporting such work. I wrote an op-ed that the Fort Worth Star-Telegram is publishing today that is a response to the Texas Attorney General’s recent threats to arrest and prosecute international election observers who are in Texas during the upcoming U.S. election.
The op-ed is available here