WASHINGTON, 7 November 2012 – The general elections in the United States took place in a highly competitive and pluralistic environment, and were administered in a professional manner, but steps should be taken to address specific concerns, the observation mission deployed by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) concluded in a statement released today.
"The election campaigns were vibrant and highly competitive, and the electoral process enjoys broad public confidence," said Ambassador Daan Everts, the Head of the OSCE/ODIHR Limited Election Observation Mission. "At the same time, there are real concerns over issues such as voting rights, the accuracy of voter lists, the transparency of campaign finance, recount procedures and access for international election observers.”
The legal framework for general elections is highly decentralized and complex, as the implementation and details of the process are regulated by state laws, the statement said. Amendments to electoral law in some states were only finalized in the weeks before election day, leading to a lack of clarity over which regulations would apply.
Although there were initiatives by a number of states, further efforts to improve the accuracy of voter lists are needed. The issue of voter identification rules is politically polarized. While efforts to ensure the integrity of the vote are important, these should not lead to the disenfranchisement of eligible voters, the OSCE/ODIHR mission said. An estimated 50 million eligible citizens were not registered, raising questions over the effectiveness of measures to ensure that all those entitled are able to cast ballots.
The media landscape is diverse and provided voters with a broad range of information and views on candidates, issues and electoral platforms. While public and national broadcasters reported in a balanced manner, leading cable television networks were highly partisan.
There are no limits on campaign spending, including from corporations and unions, and these elections were estimated to be the most expensive to date. Spending by some independent groups is also exempt from disclosure requirements, raising transparency concerns.
The statement noted that legislation in a number of states does not provide for access to polling stations for international election observers, contrary to commitments made by all 56 OSCE participating States, including the United States.
“This is not a new issue, and is one that will have to be addressed if state laws are to be brought in line with the United States’ international commitments,” Everts said.