Opinion Snapshot: International Election Monitors Not Necessary

By Nathan Burchfiel | July 7, 2008 | 8:05 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - Ten people were asked Monday on the Capitol Mall whether they had ever heard of the Austria-based group that's been invited by the Bush administration to monitor this year's American presidential election. Not a single one was familiar with the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE), and all ten had reservations about the group's mission.

The unscientific, random interviews conducted by CNSNews.com included Penny Gray of San Francisco, who said she could not understand why the United States needed to be monitored.

"Our elections have nothing to do with other countries," she said. "It's an internal citizen matter."

Gray said the presence of a foreign group is "absolutely not" necessary. "I definitely don't feel that any foreign country has any right to any information about our elections," she added.

The mission of OSCE -- ... to determine whether the election is designed and implemented with respect for the following principles: universality, equality, fairness, secrecy, freedom, transparency, and accountability," according to its website -- confused 19-year old Bryan Blaney of Joliet, Ill.

"I was always under the impression that it's been fair all along," Blaney said. He was touring the nation's capital with three friends, dressed in anti-George W. Bush and pro-John Kerry t-shirts.

"I don't think [the problems in Florida in 2000] had anything to do with it being fair or equal rather than that there were problems with hanging chads," Blaney added.

But he said if the United States is giving money to the OSCE, "it's only fitting that we at least ask them to take part in our elections instead of just paying for this company to take care of other nations."

The OSCE had a budget of 185.7 million euros or $227.6 million in 2003. Germany, the United Kingdom, France and Italy each pay the highest percentage of the OSCE's budget, 9.1 percent. The U.S. and Russia are next, each paying 9 percent.

The Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, which will oversee the election, controls $11.8 million of the OSCE's total budget, according to the group's website.

Paula Gustovson of Southington, Conn., said that while she thinks it's a "good idea" to invite OSCE to oversee the election, she'd rather see more money being spent at home.

Jane Collier of Xenia, Ohio, agreed. She said the United States "could do more for the homeless people, education."

Nakia Herndon of Washington, D.C., suggested that instead of paying for other countries to oversee and offer recommendations for elections, the U.S. government should "pay the homeless people to give suggestions."

She said American election officials "should take the suggestions from us [U.S. citizens] because we live in America and we know what's going on in America."

Her friend, Kasandra Hughes, said officials should try to "hear from the voters." Hughes said a group like OSCE might have good ideas, but the "say-so" rests with the United States.

But some said the group should stay out of American elections altogether. "It's kind of weird," Beth Harmon of Dayton, Ohio, said. "We've had elections [like] forever and it's working for us."

Harmon said it was "odd" that the administration would invite a third party to oversee the elections.

Three international tourists spoke with CNSNews.com about the prospect of a foreign organization overseeing elections.

John Sumner of Manchester, England, said he thinks "most countries are capable, in Europe anyway, of monitoring their own elections."

Stefanie Drews of Hamburg, Germany, said she thinks an organization demanding changes in election processes was unacceptable, but "recommendations are okay."

Her friend, Yvonne Trelenberg added that, "There's always room for improvement. It wouldn't bother me if someone else from another country would make a proposal of what I could or couldn't do," she said.

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