State Dept.: European election observers immune from US law

Election observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) have immunity from U.S. laws, according to State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott had sent a letter to the OSCE on Tuesday informing the organization that its observers “are not authorized by Texas law to enter a polling place,” and that coming within 100 feet of a polling place “may be a criminal offense.” 

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During Friday’s State Department media briefing, Nuland said that the OSCE observers were eligible for full immunity. Nuland also said that she did not anticipate having those immunities invoked, as the OSCE and Texas were in communication.

Nuland dismissed a question about whether authorities in Texas had cause to worry the OSCE efforts were the advance of “some international attempt to assert control of their sovereignty.” 

“There are no sovereignty issues here,” she said. Nuland later reaffirmed that the OSCE does not have binding legal authority over any states that it chooses to observe.

“There is no legal obligation encumbered by an OSCE report. It is an observation.”

The OSCE has been observing elections in the United States since 2002 and has observed in Texas before without incident.