Washington, D.C. – Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, issued the following statement after meeting last week with representatives from the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), an international organization that includes the U.S. as a charter member. The OSCE has monitored elections throughout the world, and was first invited to observe a U.S. presidential election by the Bush administration in 2004. The Leadership Conference brokered the meeting between the international body and several civil rights organizations to request targeted election monitoring to states with active voter restriction efforts. The groups previously documented these concerns in a letter to the OSCE sent in advance of this meeting:
“America serves as a beacon of democracy for the world. And by hosting a contingent of unbiased international observers, we are showing the world that our election can be a model of transparency and integrity.
During the last several years, there has been an unprecedented and sophisticated level of coordination to restrict voting rights in our nation. These efforts, including photo ID requirements, limits on community-based and same day registration, shortened early voting periods, and proof of citizenship requirements, undermine our democracy, particularly for students, seniors, naturalized immigrants, and people of color. Reports that True the Vote and other groups intend to place one million people at polling locations across the country to intimidate and challenge voters are equally concerning.
Sharing the concerns of civil rights groups with the OSCE has never been more important because shining a light on these efforts is critical to ensuring that everyone’s vote counts. The OSCE needs to know how sophisticated and pervasive these efforts are so it can be prepared to recognize voter suppression when it happens.
The Department of Justice and civil rights groups have fought back against these efforts, but there is more to be done. Our elections must be monitored by American organizations, the federal government, and international observers to ensure that we live up to our role as the world’s greatest democracy.
Having unbiased observers at the polls ensures the legitimacy, integrity, and transparency of our election. OSCE observers only report back their findings – they do not intervene in the election and have no standing to do so. For Americans who are proud of their democracy, this is an opportunity to show the world that we won’t tolerate voter intimidation, fraud, or suppression.
We welcome the OSCE’s presence and hope that the American people pay close attention to its findings.”
Wade Henderson is the president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 200 national organizations to promote and protect the rights of all persons in the United States. The Leadership Conference works toward an America as good as its ideals. For more information on The Leadership Conference and its 200-plus member organizations, visit www.civilrights.org.