In recent weeks, Donald Trump has repeatedly voiced his suspicions that the US presidential vote will be “rigged.”
The Republican candidate even tweeted, “Of course there is large scale voter fraud happening on and before election day,” on October 17.
And on November 8, a large contingent of international election observers will be on hand at the polls in numerous US states.
The Organization of American States, a bloc of Western Hemisphere countries, will be present in the US for the first time, sending 30 to 40 observers, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which has been sending small groups of observers since 2002, will boost its presence considerably, The Washington Post reported earlier this month.
The OAS has monitored elections through North and South America, invited in by the country holding the voting. The bloc’s presence during the US election would bolster US efforts to get other countries in the region to allow the group’s observers in, Michael Shifter, president of the think tank Inter-American Dialogue, told EFE.
Former Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla, who will head the OAS’ electoral mission in the US, told Andres Oppenheimer that the group’s presence was requested by the US on June 30. But Chinchilla said the observers deployed to the US shouldn’t lend credence to suggestions of electoral tampering.
“Up to now, based on what we have advanced in conversations with representatives of U.S. state and national electoral organizations, we cannot say that there are any indications that there could be a fraud on a national scale,” she said, adding that the US’s heavily decentralized voting system and local oversight made tampering difficult.
Observers from the OAS and OSCE (Russian observers may even join the latter group) would not have free reign at US polling places. Twelve states bar international observers, including Texas and Iowa, according to The Post. Tennessee bars UN observers, who have a partnership with the OSCE.
A spokesman for the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of US rights groups, told The Post that there reasons for concern heading into this election. On one hand, there will be fewer US observers due to cuts to a Justice Department program.
“On top of that, you have a presidential campaign run with racial and religious animus as primary hinges, and a candidate actively encouraging people to go to polls to challenge voters," the spokesman told The Post. "This is dangerous confluence of events that make a perfect storm for voting discrimination in 2016.”
Other experts downplayed the need for observers to ensure the legitimacy of the US vote, with one calling their presence a “positive, symbolic gesture.” One delegation’s leader stressed they would simply observe and report want they saw.
But both the OAS and OSCE have noted areas of concern, such as campaign financing and voter representation and identification, and issues they would like to weigh in on, like political participation and factors that impede voter turnout.
“We’re eager to contribute to the United States,” Francisco Javier Guerrero, the OAS secretary for the strengthening of democracy, told The Post. “We feel we can give a different point of view.”