from Africa in Transition

Election Observers, in Africa and in the United States

November 06, 2012

Blog Post

More on:

Sub-Saharan Africa

Elections and Voting

United States

Civil Society


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.