International observers rebuke Trump over fraud claims
Election monitors say the president's false allegations of cheating 'harm public trust.'
International observers said the U.S. election was generally well-managed despite the coronavirus pandemic, but they slammed Donald Trump and his campaign for “baseless allegations of systemic fraud” and said the policy debate was “obscured” by “deeply entrenched political polarization.”
In preliminary findings and conclusions issued on Wednesday, with the outcome of the presidential election still undetermined, observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) cited a “great deal of legal uncertainty” largely created by Republican Party litigation to challenge changes in voting procedures adopted as a result of the extraordinary health situation.
But the observers reserved their toughest words for Trump’s allegations of fraud and malfeasance, including a remarkable statement at the White House early Wedneaday morning when he prematurely claimed victory, while accusing Democrats of cheating without providing any evidence.
“This is a fraud on the American public,” Trump said. “This is an embarassment to our country. We were getting ready to win this election; frankly, we did win this election.” He added, “This is a major fraud on our nation” and vowed to fight in the U.S. Supreme Court without providing any basis for doing so.
In their preliminary findings, the observers urged that the legal counting of ballots proceed, and they reprimanded Trump for undermining trust.
“Counting and tabulation is ongoing and should continue in accordance with the law and OSCE commitments,” they wrote. “Baseless allegations of systematic deficiencies, notably by the incumbent president, including on election night, harm public trust in democratic institutions.”
They also said the Republican legal fights against coronavirus contingency measures had created confusion for voters and election workers.
“A significant proportion of these measures were challenged in courts, mostly by the Republican Party, resulting in protracted litigation seeking to maintain previous arrangements,” they wrote.
“This in turn produced a great deal of legal uncertainty even in the days leading up to the election. Notwithstanding the imperatives of securing the election during a pandemic, the litigation of election processes so close to the election day and the attending legal uncertainty is contrary to international good practice, presents an additional burden on election administration and may ultimately result in some voters not being able to cast their ballots.”
In addition to those concerns, the observers cited some obstacles that hindered voters from participating — echoing concerns raised particularly by Democrats about efforts to suppress racial and ethnic minority voters in some states.
“Voter registration and identification rules in some states are unduly restrictive for certain groups of citizens,” the observers wrote. They also expressed concerns about 5.2 million citizens denied the right to vote because of criminal convictions, even though roughly half had served their sentences.
Observers were deployed by two wings of the OSCE — its Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly.
Overall, they found, the U.S. election was “competitive and well managed despite the many challenges” caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
But in a statement, Michael Georg Link, the special coordinator of the OSCE’s short-term observer mission, decried the effort to limit vote counting,
“Nobody — no politician, no elected official — should limit the people’s right to vote,” Link said. “Coming after such a highly dynamic campaign, making sure that every vote is counted is a fundamental obligation for all branches of government.”
The observers also cited concerns about campaign finance and, especially, unregulated spending by independent advocates and groups. Total spending on the U.S. election was estimated at $14 billion.