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European Observers Monitor US Election


For the first time, international observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the OSCE, have been observing the U.S. election process. VOA News' Brian Padden spent part of Election Day with two election monitors in the U.S. state of Maryland.

At exactly seven in the morning on Election Day, the doors of the Bethesda Elementary School, just outside of Washington, D.C., opened and voting began.

JOE MIDDLETON, OSCE ELECTION MONITOR

"So far everything seems to be very well organized."

Joe Middleton and Alexander Polyantsev are election monitors from OSCE -- the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. They've been invited here by the U.S. State Department.

JOE MIDDLETON, OSCE ELECTION MONITOR

"And is this Bethesda, is it a mainly Republican, mainly Democratic area, mixed? What's the political color?"

POLL WORKER

"Registration here is about four or five to one."

JOE MIDDLETON, OSCE ELECTION MONITOR

"Which party?"

POLL WORKER

"Prominently Democrat."

While commonplace in Europe and much of the world, this is the first U.S. presidential election being monitored by international observers. So far, says Alexander Polyantsev, everyone has been very cooperative.

ALEXANDER POLYANTSEV, OSCE ELECTION MONITOR

"The poll workers are very friendly. They explained everything to us."

Joe Middleton also notes that they are here in the relatively wealthy Democratic stronghold of Maryland because other more closely contested states would not let them in.

JOE MIDDLETON, OSCE ELECTION MONITOR

"In others states authorities have said as a matter of law they cannot allow us into their polling stations. It is my understanding that we have not been able to get into polling stations in Florida, Ohio or Pennsylvania."

Still, what they have seen here has been mostly reassuring. There have been long lines but people have been patient. The poll workers here represent both the major parties. Even the electronic voting machines have been working well, although some voters, such as Jay Karlin, have expressed some concern.

JAY KARLIN

"I would feel better if there was some way of confirming it after the fact, something you could take with you like a receipt."

Many local voters here have voiced support for hosting international election observers.

VOTER 1

"If they are impartial I don't have a problem with international observers. They are just doing their job. And they're more neutral than any American would be, I guess."

VOTER2

"Everything should be as transparent as possible because that is the only way you can, as least in my opinion, maintain the integrity of your democracy."

VOTER3

"Well, it's a little embarrassing for this country but I'm happy they are here."

The OSCE says, despite the impression that election monitors are only sent to places where there are voting problems, they are in the United States to see reforms in voting procedures in action -- including the new touch-screen voting.

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