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October 24, 2014, 2:48 am
970 WMAY News

International Election Observers Visit Springfield

Lincoln and Route 66 aren't the only things that attract people to the capital city from all around the world. Our elections are another big draw.


Several weeks ago, the Organization for Security Co-operation in Europe visited the Sangamon County Board of Elections with two members of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.


Sangamon County Complex
Sangamon County Complex

Stacy Kern, the Director of Elections for Sangamon County, says the two observers visited two different days. The first day they asked to see the voter registration process and asked about deputy registrars. The second day they toured the office and watched a sample ballot demonstration.


Kern says it was odd they didn't call ahead.  "I was a little bit surprised that they didn't call ahead or make and appointment and just walked in and said 'can we talk to you about elections.' It's just not a typical thing that you have happen everyday."


OSCE Spokesperson Thomas Rymer, speaking from Warsaw, Poland, tells WMAY News that the Organization's election observation stems from an agreement the United States made in the OSCE Copenhagen document of 1991. Participating states committed themselves to invite OSCE observers to observe each others' elections.  "US Observers have had a major role in going to the other 55 participating states.  They have committed to each other that they will assist each other to improve procedures and processes." 


OSCE/ODIHR Logo. Read more about the group's US mission here.

Rymer says OSCE has conducted six election observation mission in the United States since 2002. OSCE will hold a press conference the day after the election in Washington DC where they will address issues like new voting technology, alternative voting methods, candidate and voter registration, and campaign finance, among others things.


These mission included interviews with state, federal, and local election officials, candidates, members of civic society and the media. Rymer says it's a way to see how the organization can help improve the way elections are run.  "We try to gain a comprehensive understanding on how the elections are run and how they relate to international OSCE commitments and international standards for democratic elections."


Rymer says the observations are part of an international obligation the United States is a founding member of the 56 member OSCE that houses the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. Not all states in the US are hip to the idea of international observers. The Attorney General for Texas has threatened to arrest the observers if they try to interfere with the elections. Rymer says that goes against the obligation the United States has with it's OSCE member states, but they will abide by the law.


"This is a high profile case where the Texas law is out of line with the United States international commitments.  It's an issue for the Untied States to deal with internally."


The Sangamon County Board of Elections says that regardless where they're from, if someone wants to be a poll-watcher the day of the election, they would have to get permission from the County Board of Elections, a candidate, political party or civic organization.

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