Note to Demagogues: The UN is Not Monitoring the US Election

Ever since The Hill reported on Tuesday that a small contingent of election monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe were invited to observe elections in a few precincts in the USA, a certain cadre of folk have sought to fear monger about the UN interfering in the US elections.

Here, for example, is a fundraising email sent around by Congressman Connie Mack of Florida:

The U.N. on OUR soil to “MONITOR” OUR Elections…. Every American should be outraged by this news!

But that’s exactly what was reported today…which is why I called for the immediate defunding of the U.N. and for them to be kicked off of our soil.

The very idea that the United Nations – the world body dedicated to diminishing America’s role in the world — would be allowed, if not encouraged, to install foreigners sympathetic to the likes of Castro, Chavez, Ahmadinejad, and Putin to oversee our elections is nothing short of disgusting.

And what did my opponent Bill Nelson reportedly say in form letters back to his constituents about the U.N…. “I believe our membership in the United Nations serves an important strategic purpose in advancing U.S. policies and interests.”

Let me be clear — the only ones who should ever oversee American elections are Americans.

The United States must defund the United Nations. The United Nations should be kicked off of American soil once and for all.

And the American people should demand that the United Nations be stopped from ‘monitoring’ American elections.

Help me stop the U.N. march against America. Please, send your most generous contribution to my campaign today.

With your help, we will defeat Bill Nelson and the LockStep Liberals, and together we will return America back to her rightful place as the beacon of freedom, security and prosperity

And here’s the speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives:

“The United States is the worldwide beacon of free elections and the Republican form of government, so having an international squad from the United Nations playing referee in our elections is insulting and absurd,” Hubbard said. “We’ve been holding elections in the U.S. for the past 223 years without the United Nations playing a role or enforcing the rules, and we certainly don’t want or need them now…It’s bad enough that Alabama remains trapped under the provisions of the Voting Rights Act, so we certainly don’t need anyone from the United Nations coming into our state and meddling in our elections, as well.”

A couple of point of facts here. 1) The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is not the United Nations.  It has 56 members, from the USA to Kazakhstan. Most of what the OSCE does focuses on human rights and security cooperation among its members. They also have special expertise in election monitoring.

The UN and OSCE are two separate and distinct entities. The OSCE does not report to the Secretary General or General Assembly; its funding is completely separate; its membership is different. It does, however, share a partnership agreement with the United Nations. The OSCE has certain competencies that UN agencies sometimes draw upon, so they have a formal working relationship.  This is not dissimilar to the kind of formal working relationship that the Red Cross has with the United Nations and some of its agencies, but we don’t consider the Red Cross to the “the UN” do we?

So, having established that the OSCE is not the UN, why exactly are these OSCE in the USA? There are two good answers. For one, the USA invited the OSCE to monitor US elections, as it has done every year since the George W. Bush administration invited the OSCE to monitor the 2002 mid-term elections. The reason that this is suddenly a media firestorm is that well respected civil society organizations in the USA met with the OSCE observer mission last week to express concerns that qualified voters will be deterred from going to the polls because of deliberate efforts to suppress their vote.

The second reason that the OSCE is observing the US election has to do with advancing America’s long term national security interests by supporting the spread of democracy around the world. By agreement, OSCE member states allow election observers from other member states to observe and report on their elections. So, OSCE observers were on the ground in Georgia last month and helped assure the international community that this contentious race was conducted fairly. OSCE observers also routinely observe elections in the Balkans (where there are still plenty of American troops).

This kind of reciprocal election monitoring-on-demand helps American national interest much, much more than having some 50 international observers on American soil undermines American interest in any meaningful way. The USA lets OSCE observers monitor and report on its elections to serve as an example to countries with a less robust history of free and fair elections. It is much easier to convince, say, Albania to permit election monitors when the standard bearer of electoral democracy does so as well.

So, this bruhahaha is really much ado about nothing. We should be welcoming these observers with open arms.