Oh Texas, we can rely on you. Texas is up in arms over the presence of international elections observers. The Attorney General of Texas –who is a Tea Party aligned Republican, natch — has written both Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to protest OSCE observers. He has even threatened to arrest the observers. There’s nothing like an international incident to spice up an election.
Note that the OSCE has observed U.S. elections since 2002, when they were invited by the BUSH ADMINISTRATION. Moreover they are “observers,” which means exactly what it sounds — they just watch the election and do nothing else. There’s no reason to object to their presence unless you actually intend to commit voter fraud and don’t want anyone to write about it. He even admits that the observers won’t interfere with the elections but merely criticize the way Texas holds elections.
Remember the justification for voter screening laws is to guarantee fair elections, and the GOP media machine has done a good job of duping many moderate voters into believing that argument. Publicly criticizing groups devoted to maintaining fair elections gives lie to the Texas GOP argument.
Texas has allowed partisan observers at elections, meaning on some level this is simple xenophobic baiting, which is also dumb.
I’m a rare breed of American voter who defends the electoral college. Whenever I hear someone idealistically call for eliminating the electoral college and having a pure popular vote I usually begin my defense by pointing out the exponential increase in advertising, travel, and ground game money that would require — further entrenching monied interests in the electoral process.
But this story raises another troubling aspect of moving away from the electoral college. While Pennsylvania got a lot of the attention, most voter screening laws are enacted in “Deep Red” states. While this has little impact on presidential elections run by the electoral college today, under a pure popular vote system, Republican state governments can suppress the vote with dangerous national effect. No one worries much about Texas in national elections because its electoral votes are already set, but consider that in 2008 Texas provided 3.5 million votes for Barack Obama. That’s 2.6% of Obama’s 2008 total. In razor thin elections, efforts to deny the vote to traditionally Democratic constituencies in right-leaning states could easily shift the overall popular vote. By maintaining the electoral college, the status of voter screening laws is in the hands of state governments that are decidedly purple, thus protecting the right to vote — at least more than it’s protected in Texas.