Iowa’s top election official is warning county auditors a small group of international “election observers” are not to be allowed within 300 feet of a polling place. Secretary of State Matt Schultz says Iowa law spells out who is allowed inside a polling place on Election Day.
“It’s really clear on who can be there,” Schultz says. “The only exception for educational purposes is actually for youth programs and, clearly, this doesn’t fit in that exception.”
The “Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe” is not a United Nations agency. It’s a group formed by the United States and European nations in 1975 at the height of the Cold War and representatives of the group have observed five previous U.S. elections. Iowa’s secretary of state says poll workers are trained about the legal restrictions and, if one of the four international visitors from this group refuses to leave, they are to be arrested.
“They can’t be at the polls and it’s Iowa law,” Schultz says. “And it’s my job to enforce the law.”
Schultz sent an advisory to county auditors this week, after hearing members of the group had been asking county officials about being at the polls in Iowa. A deputy secretary of state met with representatives of the group last week.
“We have people come from countries all over the world that come to our office, actually, on a regular basis to talk about elections and we love doing it. We always open our doors to discuss how we operate elections in Iowa,” Schultz says. “…The issue comes that they are not allowed at the polls and that’s what we’re making very clear and we want everybody to know it so that we know the law’s enforced on Election Day.”
The “Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe” was first invited to observe U.S. elections in 1990, by Republican President George H.W. Bush’s administration. A statement from the group that’s posted online says they have not violated state election laws in the previous U.S. elections they’ve already observed, “and they will not do so this time.”