American Election Officials Tell Russian Would-Be Observers To Stay Out

Markus Schreiber

The Russian government doesn't seem too interested in assuaging Americans' fears that they're trying to influence our elections: Oklahoma, Louisiana and Texas all refused requests from Russian officials seeking to monitor U.S. polling places.

Russian election monitors asked to observe "US experience in organization of voting process,” in the words of Russia’s consulate general in Houston, according to a Friday report from the Associated Press.

Oklahoma officials denied the request by saying state law prohibits anyone except election officials and voters from being present while voting is taking place, according to the AP. The Tulsa World reported that Texas Secretary of State Carlos H. Cascos sent a similar response to the Russians, saying only those authorized by state law were allowed inside polling places.

Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler, who oversees the elections of a state without such a regulation, struck a slightly more open tone.

“Had this flood event not occurred, we certainly would have been open to such a visit, but I cannot meet such a request with the situation I currently have in front of me,” he wrote, according to the Tulsa World. “I wish you success with your request in other states and appreciate your interest in our voting process.”

The Russian move reads less like a serious attempt to ensure the legitimacy of American elections and more like a geopolitical barb.

The head of Russia’s Central Election Commission told RT, the Kremlin-backed media outfit, that “Americans obstruct Russia’s attempts to monitor their elections because they see them as a threat.” The deputy chairman of the Upper House’s Foreign Affairs Committee told RT “they are suffering from some sort of persecutory delusion—they imagine that Russians want to distort their elections and somehow intend to do it while acting as observers.”

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has been criticized for many of his positions on Russia, including his refusal to accept the American intelligence community’s official view that Russian-backed hackers stole emails from the Democratic National Committee, Hillary Clinton campaign chair John Podesta, and others.

At Wednesday night's presidential debate, Clinton said Trump would be Russian president Vladimir Putin's "puppet" were he to be elected president.

The Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, which performs election monitoring, has criticized the Russian government for its own election transparency and accountability issues in the past, including after Putin’s re-election in 2012.

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