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Alabama shows its xenophobia again

The Tuscaloosa News reports: Two European election observers will be in Alabama today and their presence is causing a stir.

Election observers from the Office of Security and Co-operation in Europe/Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights have conducted limited election observation missions in the United States since 2002, just as U.S. election observers have been doing in foreign countries.

The United States is a member of the Office of Security and Co-operation in Europe, which had been incorrectly identified as a United Nations affiliate. That initial link to the U.N. caused state officials in Texas and Alabama to warn against election intrusion.

Alabama Secretary of State Beth Chapman's office recently issued a statement that "anyone in any polling place who is approached by or observing anyone from the OSCE" should call her election hot line. -- Read the whole story -->European election observers cause stir in Alabama | TuscaloosaNews.com

Comment: First of all, the O in OSCE stands for Organization.

Five years ago I was an election observer in the Scottish elections. Everyone in my group (organized by FairVote) was given a credential by the national election authority in Britain so that we were allowed to go into polling places, counting facilities, and the like. We were not allowed to campaign, interfere with voters, or interfere with polling officials. Pretty much like the rules for poll watchers in Alabama.

Our group was in Britain (London and then Scotlan) for a week, so we observed a lot more than just voting on election day. We got briefings from election officials, civil servants, and on election night many in our group met candidates and officials of political parties who had turned out for the count.

On election day, I went to two polling places (one in the anteroom of a mosque, the other in a classroom of a Roman Catholic school). In each place, I introduced myself and showed my credentials to the chief polling officer. As voters were leaving the polling site, I introduced myself and asked a few questions about their views on their election system.

It was a great experience for all in the group. I wish Alabama could be as gracious as the English and Scots were to us.

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