Remember the good old days—say, 2015—when the World looked toward the US as a beacon of democracy?
Well, it seems that an international group designed to monitor elections is so troubled by what we’re doing in the good old USA that they’re sending people to keep an eye on us.
The Guardian reports that these designated poll watchers are from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)—specifically, its democracy and human rights arm.
It seems American exceptionalism has been redefined…
OSCE, with 57 member states, actually began scrutinizing us in 2000, when Bush v Gore was settled by the Supreme Court. But they really sprang into action in 2016.
And this year, after spending one week on a needs assessment, the organization’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) reported great concern about the problems US election officials will face in November and their ability to overcome them.
Now here’s the strange part: The ODIHR needs assessment states that it was undertaken at the invitation of the US Mission to the OSCE (!).
I think this bit of information should remain in the strictest confidence between you and me. I strongly suspect that if the word gets out to the Trump administration that some of its officials think a close look at the integrity of our elections is necessary by Europeans, no less (not, say Russians or other reliably friendly folk), heads will (figuratively) roll.
(In fact, to my amazement, the “Annex” to the report includes names of US individuals from the Departments of State, Justice, Defense, Homeland Security, the FBI, Federal Elections Commission, Federal Communications Commission, House of Representatives, both the Democratic and Republican National Committees, and a slew of other representatives of diverse organizations. Nobody from the White House, however. Shhhhh!)
The NAM (Needs Assessment Mission) members spoke with these US officials and experts, and apparently enough of them expressed their fear that problems with voting might affect trust in the administration of the election, which could translate into harm for the proceedings and create doubt about the outcome.
As a result, the ODIHR wrote:
“Most ODIHR NAM interlocutors opined that, in an atmosphere of increased polarization, accusations from all political sides on potential voter fraud and mistrust in the election process and results, the presence of external observers to assess the process will be highly valuable, adding an important layer of transparency.”
And that was before mailboxes were being removed from street corners and carried away on trucks. Hmmmmm….
Most of the American officials and experts welcomed the presence of the foreign observers. The plan is to have member states send 100 long-term observers “to follow the election countrywide,” and 400 short-term observers for election day.
But will they be permitted to enter the US in the midst of the pandemic?
Knowing about this potential international presence is both comforting and terribly sad, don’t you think? Unfortunately, there’s no way to ensure the observers will even be allowed in the polling places. The states have discretion.
For some time, this group has been making recommendations to improve our elections, which have mostly been ignored, especially on the federal level. There’s that big gap in the Voting Rights Act due to the 2017 Supreme Court ruling; legislation passed in the House to correct it and end discriminatory practices against minority voters has been stalled since 2019.
There’s also attention to ensuring the vote for former felons, an issue that’s seen some improvement in several states. But in another area, gerrymandering, change has been minimal, as have calls for independent entities to draw district boundaries according to voter equity.
And, of course, there’s major concern that the pandemic will mean a shortage of poll watchers, and that the post office won’t be able to handle the additional mail-in ballots.
That was even before President Trump announced his determination to deliberately hamper the mail-in voting that he fears will oust him from office, assisted by his big-donor appointee, ironically named DeJoy, who knows nothing about running a post office or the post office’s Constitutionally protected role. He also had (and may still have) competing financial interests when he was appointed.
I’d say that’s now Concern #1: a clear Constitutional threat to the bedrock of our democracy, a clearly impeachable act for which the President will not be impeached.
But it’s nice to know our allies are still with us, trying to make us live up to the ideals for which they used to admire us—and which we seem in danger of losing with each passing day.
I read this report, which holds up the mirror to us even though our descent has been so terribly obvious to most Americans, too soon after the euphoria of the Biden-Harris appearances and the hope they inspire.
As I don’t want to end this post on a sour note, I’ve inserted a short, happy video that just happens to have come from across the pond.
Here is a totally non-election look at a Zoom professional meeting in which British sportscaster Andrew Cotter holds a brief evaluation with two of his “employees.” Make sure your sound is up high enough to hear Cotter’s concluding words.
And thanks, once again, to my dear friend Fran, for bringing me this bit of fun. I hope you’ll enjoy it—even if you’ve seen it before.