Donald Trump's poll-watching talk spurs call for international monitors of U.S. election
Citing Donald Trump's controversial call to his supporters to challenge voters at the polls, a leading civil rights group is urging international election monitors to beef up their efforts to observe this November's U.S. presidential contest.
It's the latest reflection of deep concern among voting rights advocates about potential voter intimidation and suppression this fall.
In a letter sent Saturday, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights asked the Warsaw, Poland-based Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to "greatly expand" its U.S. election monitoring program.
"A confluence of factors," the civil rights group said, has made racial discrimination in voting a greater threat than at any time in recent history.
"The unprecedented weakening of the Voting Rights Act has led to a tidal wave of voter discrimination efforts nationwide and has required the United States to drastically scale back its own election monitoring program," wrote Wade Henderson and Nancy Zirkin, president and vice president respectively of the Washington, D.C.-based Leadership Conference.
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Those concerns have been heightened by last month's announcement by the U.S. Justice Department that it will reduce the number of its own election observers deployed to polling places this fall.
The DOJ said the pull-back was required by the Supreme Court's 2013 ruling inShelby County v. Holder, which significantly weakened the Voting Rights Act, though some voting rights advocates have called that an unnecessarily conservative reading of the ruling.
The OSCE is perhaps best known as an international security organization, but its human-rights arm sends election monitors at the request of member states. The U.S. government has invited OSCE monitors to observe the last three presidential elections, as well as the upcoming one. And American observers, under the OSCE's auspices, have monitored elections in Russia, Ukraine, and other countries.
OSCE monitors have no legal authority to affect election proceedings. Still, in 2012, Greg Abbott, then the Republican Attorney General of Texas — he's now the state's governor — threatened to arrest OSCE monitors sent to his state.
In response, an OSCE spokesman singled out the wave of recent restrictive state voting laws, saying they violate America's commitment to hold open elections.