By BOBBY CERVANTES | 10/31/12 2:00 PM EDT Updated: 10/31/12 2:46 PM EDT
Iowa has joined Texas in warning international election observers of possible criminal prosecution if they violate state laws and get near polling places on Election Day.
Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz — like Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott last week — on Tuesday threatened Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe election observers with arrest if they came within 300 feet of a polling place’s entrance, in violation of state law. (In Texas, it’s 100 feet.)
“My office met with two delegation representatives last week to discuss Iowa’s election process, and it was explained to them that they are not permitted at the polls,” Schultz said in a statement. “Iowa law is very specific about who is permitted at polling places, and there is no exception for members of this group.”
The OSCE — comprised of 56 countries, including the United States — is chiefly a crisis mediation and conflict resolution group in Europe, Asia and North America. Since 2002, the organization’s poll watchers have observed six U.S. elections, without incident, said Janez Lenari, the OSCE’s director for the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.
In a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Lenari wrote, “The threat of criminal sanctions against OSCE/ODIHR observers is unacceptable. The United States, like all countries in the OSCE, has an obligation to invite ODIHR observers to observe its elections.”
Victoria Nuland, a State Department spokesman, said last week the group assured Texas authorities and the State Department that observers will respect Texas laws.
“To my knowledge, [Texas] is the only state that came forward and said ‘please reassure us that you’re going to follow our state electoral law.’ And they have now been reassured,” Nuland said.