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International Election Observers Highlight US Voting Problems

RIA Novosti

05:07 08/11/2012 WASHINGTON, November 8 (Suleiman Wali for RIA Novosti) - One day after Americans elected US President Barack Obama to a second term, international monitors observing the election said Wednesday that the US electoral process “enjoys broad public confidence” but that “real concerns” remain concerning voters’ rights and the transparency of campaign financing.

“Not having to disclose the origin of [campaign] funding, that seems to raise questions of transparency,” Ambassador Daan Everts, head of the election-monitoring arm of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) told a news conference Wednesday.

“We ought to be able to know where the funds come from that finance the messages that are meant to influence the vote,” Everts added.

Tuesday’s US presidential election, in which more than a billion dollars was spent on campaign ads alone, was the most expensive in American history, Everts said.

Meanwhile, he also highlighted the lack of access that his team faced in eight US states that either barred—or placed conditions on—his monitors as they tried to observe the voting process.

Everts, however, downplayed the issue, which he attributed to either a lack of information or misinformation in the media that led state officials to believe the OSCE monitors would interfere in the election.

“The [state] attorney generals got the misperception that we will be there to interfere, we would be there as challengers or inspectors inside the polling stations, which is totally incorrect,” Everts said. “We are simply there to observe, report, all while following states’ rights.”

The recommendations, which will be compiled in a report within two months, will be sent to the US government, including the State Department and Congress, Everts said.

The report, which was released to the media, also criticized the United States’ “highly decentralized and complex” system that does not have one federal election management body with oversight responsibilities.

“Elections are run by states, and run down to the county levels. So, there are 50 elections instead of one, which can cause problems,” Everts said.

One example of such an Election Day problem were the considerable voting delays that caused people to wait in line for three to four hours at some polling stations. Obama even mentioned the issue in his victory speech early Wednesday morning.

“I want to thank every American who participated in this election—whether you voted for the very first time or waited in line for a very long time. By the way, we have to fix that,” Obama said, drawing cheers and applause.

When asked about voting delays, Everts said these kinds of problems can be avoided in the future by increasing the number of polling stations, opening more early voting centers, and encouraging people to vote by mail.

“Make Election Day a holiday so you all don’t have to queue up at the beginning of the day,” Everts added.

The OSCE’s election-monitoring arm observes voting procedures throughout the world and makes its recommendations the governments holding the elections.

The organization has ruffled feathers in Russia in recent years by repeatedly criticizing the country’s elections.

In a February 2008 news conference, Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed an overhaul of the organization and said its election monitors should teach their wives “how to make cabbage soup” rather than teach Russia about democracy.

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