Monday, October 29, 2012

“UN Observers to Watch U.S. Elections”

Sydney M. Williams

Thought of the Day
“UN Observers to Watch U.S. Elections”
October 29, 2012

The Left has long played the innocent victim to the Right’s cold-hearted fiend. Casting blame, for example, has been a regular part of President Obama’s methodology. Recently, claiming that the voting rights of minorities and immigrants are being suppressed, Leftist groups requested the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to monitor the 2012 elections. While the OSCE has been minimally involved in U.S. elections since 2002, their presence in 2012 will be considerably more significant. This has rankled conservatives, who do not feel that the involvement of a group that includes among its members some of the least democratic states in the world is necessary to ensure fair elections in the U.S.

The OSCE is a United Nations-backed group that includes among its 56 members, countries like Serbia, Ukraine, Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. It does, however, also include nations like France, Germany, the UK and the United States.

The request for observers in this election was precipitated by Leftists concerned about the requirement by an increasing number of states for some form of ID to prove that the voter actually is who he or she claims to be. Georgia was among the first states to require photo IDs in order to vote. (They did so in 2005.) A recent study of voting patterns in that state conducted by the Atlanta Journal Constitution, showed that turnout among African-Americans and Hispanics actually increased from 2006 to 2010, dramatically outpacing population growth for the same groups over the same time. In other words, rather than inhibiting minority voters, the IDs seemed to serve as a reminder of the sanctity of one’s vote and its value in a democracy. Voter IDs don’t seem unreasonable to most people, and they should help curtail voter fraud. Over 100 nations require voter ID cards and 30 states require some form of ID. About 15 require a state or federally issued photo. After all, we show picture IDs to board planes, enter most buildings and to cash checks. Friday’s Wall Street Journal had a photograph on its front page of President Obama showing his drivers license to poll workers in Chicago before he voted last Thursday. He did not appear reluctant to do so.

Nevertheless, a coalition of “civil rights” groups, such as the ACLU, the NAACP, the Leadership Council on Civil and Human Rights and re-branded ACORN organizations, sent a letter to the OSCE warning of “a coordinated political effort to disenfranchise millions of Americans – particularly traditionally disenfranchised groups like minorities.” NAACP President Todd Jealous stated late last year, when he petitioned the UN about states’ efforts to prevent fraud by requiring voter identification: “It’s been more than a century since we’ve seen such a tidal wave of assaults on the right to vote.” How quickly one forgets history! Mr. Jealous appears to have overlooked the 1950s when progressive Americans of all stripes, marched to enfranchise African-Americans.

The right to vote is a sacred aspect of American citizenship. It should not be denied, but neither should it be abused. Certainly there have been denials and abuses over the years, from both those on the Left as well as those on the Right. But on balance the system has worked well. Both Parties have, in the past, worked by way of the legislative process to improve voting standards. Both Parties, one presumes, will do so in the future.

Regardless, there will always be disagreements. In 2000, Democrats felt that Republicans “stole” the election in Florida. (In response the Bush Administration invited the OSCE in to observe the 2002 and 2004 elections.) In 1960, many Republicans complained of fraud in Illinois voting. Democrats were accused of having denizens of Cook County’s cemeteries vote in that election. In my state of Connecticut, some Republicans were upset in 2010 when late tallies in Bridgeport swung the gubernatorial election from Republican Tom Foley to Democrat Dannel Malloy. In 2008, members of the New Black Panther Party were caught on film wearing commando uniforms and brandishing weapons outside polling booths in Philadelphia, allegedly to intimidate conservative voters. No formal complaints were filed. We do have differences. But we have always settled them internally. To claim that fairness is only served when we rely on outside observers sends a message of doubt regarding our elections and breeds suspicion among Parties. It inhibits rather than aids our ability to work in a bi-partisan fashion.

In 2012, the OSCE plans to send 100 observers to the U.S. The groups requesting their participation asked that particular attention be paid to voter suppression allegations “in states like Colorado, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin.” Those eight states are all considered battleground states, with most now even or leaning Republican. As for the OSCE, following the elections in 2004, their typically sanctimonious statement read: “The elections mostly met OSCE’s commitments for democratic elections.” One observer, Konrad Olszewski of Poland (and sounding like Jimmy Carter) said that he preferred the voting systems in Venezuela and Serbia to that of the U.S. (Mr. Carter praised the Venezuelan system as “the best in the world” in a speech on September 18, 2012 at the Carter Center.) Despite being the only nation on earth founded on the principle of individual freedom, there remain those who see only America’s faults.

Texas Attorney General highlighted the controversy when he sent a letter to the OSCE warning the organization that its representatives “are not authorized by law to enter a polling place” and that it “may be a criminal offense for OSCE’s representative to maintain a presence within a hundred feet of a polling place’s entrance.” The OSCE put out a press release in which they seemed to side with Leftist organizations, saying that “stricter voter identification laws have become highly polarized.” Nevertheless, as Mr. Abbott pointed out, “The OSCE is entitled to its opinions about voter ID laws, but your opinion is irrelevant in the United States, where the Supreme Court has determined that voter ID laws are constitutional.” (In Crawford versus Marian County Election Board, the Supreme Court said that Indiana’s laws requiring voter IDs did not violate the U.S. Constitution.) In my opinion, the real reason for calling in the OSCE is to lend international support against the movement toward required photo IDs.

Should we feel better about our country and our voting system because observers from Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan. Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan will be among those watching our polling stations? Or should we agree with Florida’s Republican Congressman Connie Mack when he said about these observers: “Every American should be outraged by this news. The only ones who should ever oversee American elections are Americans.” The answer seems obvious to me.

The United States is not perfect by any means and we certainly should not isolate ourselves from the rest of the world. We should engage in international communities, alliances, treaties and trade, but we also need to know that we have the capacity, the will and the ability to govern ourselves. We have a Constitution that allows us to amend and create laws. Americans should not be made to feel our political system is inadequate of repairing itself or is inherently unfair. For our government to function equitably, we do not need the help of Pecksniffian observers, some from countries with political systems that make a mockery of democracy and justice.

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