John Campbell

Africa in Transition

Campbell tracks political and security developments across sub-Saharan Africa.

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Election Observers, in Africa and in the United States

by John Campbell
November 6, 2012

European Union elections observers talk after their arrival ahead of polls in Abuja 19/03/2011. (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters)


The attorney general of Texas, Greg Abbott, warned that election observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) will be arrested at Texas voting stations if they come within one hundred feet of polling places. His warning was seconded by Texas Governor Rick Perry. There is no evidence that the OSCE observers will challenge the law. The United States was, of course, one of the founders of the OSCE, which played an important role at the end of the Cold War and since. The OSCE has regularly observed elections in the United States and around the world.

If an African official or politician were to issue such a warning against election observers from the Independent Republican Institute (IRI), or the National Democratic Institute (NDI), or the Carter Center, my first question would be, what are they trying to hide?

I am questioning in my own mind how much foreign election observers can actually “see” in many African countries, or elsewhere. Nevertheless, foreign observers are a part of the electoral landscape, and they should be welcomed at American voting stations, as they generally are in Africa.

Post a Comment 4 Comments

  • Posted by Rra Molete

    Xenophobia in the extreme or mere posturing for the Lone Star State audience.

    Cannot imagine what foreign policy would look like in a Perry Presidency.

  • Posted by A Zim

    Good for the Attorney General and Governor of Texas. Observers are for countries where fraud is a concern. That isn’t the case here, and trying to compare the Texas response to a similar response from an African nation is assinine.

  • Posted by John P. Causey, IV


    Your argument cogent, however, on this issue the heart prevails, for most. Foreign election observers in the US is an insane concept. As much as it pains me to say, I agree with Texas on this one. I can’t imagine an America where foreign election observers have input in this highly important and sensitive state-issue. Additionally, they have no jurisdiction, so they’d only get in the way.


  • Posted by Chike Chukudebelu

    John P. Causey,

    The same argument will be used against the US in future, trust me.

    This “American exceptionalism” is unhealthy. It is reflected in everything from immunity from prosecution at the ICC to the use of drones.

    The US will pay for it.

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