Over the past couple of weeks, we have seen numerous misleading media reports regarding the role of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe in observing the upcoming general elections in the United States on 6 November.
In addition, we have been the recipient of countless messages from concerned citizens about our presence in the United States.
In response, here are a few facts that we hope will help dispel some of the rumours that have been circulating.
1. The Organization for Security and Co-operation (OSCE) is not an agency of the United Nations.
2. OSCE election observers are bound by a strict code of conduct, requiring them to maintain impartiality in the conduct of their duties, to perform those duties in an unobtrusive manner, and to not interfere in the elections in the United States in any way. They are not election police or referees. They will not play any role in counting votes or resolving election disputes. Their only role is to observe the process and to report on the degree to which that process meets the commitments that the United States has agreed to uphold.
3. OSCE observers have not been invited by one political faction to investigate claims against any other political faction. The OSCE observers have been invited by the United States Government. In fact, the OSCE has already observed a number of US elections, including previous general elections in 2004 and 2008 and mid-term elections in 2002, 2006, and 2010, always at the invitation of the respective administration that was in office at the time of the election.
4. The presence of OSCE observers is not in violation of US law. In fact, the OSCE is very aware that individual states have their own laws regarding the presence of observers at polling stations, and OSCE observers have never violated these laws in any of the five US elections already observed, and they will not do so this time.
5. The United States is one of the founding members of the OSCE, having been a part of the Organization since it was first established in 1975 as an important multilateral forum for dialogue between East and West at the height of the Cold War. Click here to see the Organization's timeline.
6. The OSCE has a longstanding invitation to monitor elections in every one of its participating States. The invitation can be found in the Organization’s Copenhagen Document, which was signed on behalf of the United States in 1990 by then-Secretary of State James Baker, under the Republican administration of George H. W. Bush. Baker, a native of the state of Texas, had previously been chief of staff under President Ronald Reagan.
7. Since agreeing to the principles of election observation, the United States has been a strong supporter of this practice, as both Democratic and Republican administrations have made it a standard practice over the years to invite OSCE observers to monitor both general and mid-term congressional elections.
8. Over the past twenty-plus years, citizens of the United States have taken part in OSCE election observation missions to many other countries, including places like Albania, Bulgaria, Canada, France, Kazakhstan, Russia, and the United Kingdom.