Hundreds of foreign observers are stationed at polling places all around the Washington, DC metropolitan area as well as in most states around the country, according to The Washington Post. They’re not here to look for fraud but to learn about the process and bring the knowledge home to their own countries.
The officials represented nations with both strong and weak democracies, as well as some that can barely claim to have governments at all, such as Libya and Somalia.
Despite concerns that this year’s especially rancorous campaign might lead to clashes at polling stations, and that voter suppression might hamper turnout, the officials were mostly concerned by long lines, particularly during the morning hours in Maryland…
Despite the media’s hopes, the feared clashes at polling stations haven’t materialized.
“There was a very high turnout in Maryland, but there was only one machine at the first place we stopped,” said Emad Alsaiah, chairman of Libya’s High National Election Commission. This is the first presidential election he has witnessed in the United States, and he was impressed. “We don’t have these kinds of technology there. We still use paper, and indelible ink.”
Asked when he thought he might see a presidential election in his home country, which is in the midst of a protracted civil war and has lost some of its territory to the Islamic State, Alsaiah said with a grimace, “Probably not in 2017.”
No small thanks to Hillary Clinton.
In the DC area the observers are here as part of an effort organized by the International Federation of Electoral Systems. The federal government has also brought in observers from other organizations. There will be foreign observers in most states.
They will be present at polling booths in most of the country’s states, and are mostly tasked with bringing lessons home to their countries rather than spotting fraud, which is exceedingly rare. An OSCE spokesman told the Voice of America that Indiana, Delaware, Maine, Missouri and New Jersey were states where the group’s observers would not be deployed.
Bob Sweeney, the CEO of the International Federation of Electoral Systems said that many of the observers had questions about possible hacking of voting machines and about how ballots are transported.
“In other countries, I’ve been in jeeps with soldiers carrying 50-caliber machine guns,” he said. “At one of the stations we just visited in Maryland, the precinct coordinator simply puts the ballots in his car and drives them himself.”
Isn’t that how Minnesota ended up sending Al Franken to the U.S. Senate? Maybe there should be a happy medium between machine guns and people just cruising around unsupervised.