International election observers in the U.S. offered a sharp rebuke of President TrumpDonald TrumpCheney says a lot of GOP lawmakers have privately encouraged her fight against Trump Republicans criticizing Afghan refugees face risks DeVos says 'principles have been overtaken by personalities' in GOP MORE on Wednesday, criticizing his attacks on the vote counting process and his premature claims that he has won the 2020 election.
“Nobody, no politician, no elected official, nobody, should limit people's rights to votes coming after such a highly dynamic campaign,” said Michael Georg Link, special coordinator and leader of the short-term observer mission from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
“Baseless allegations of systematic deficiencies, notably by the incumbent president, including on election night, harm public trust in democratic institutions,” he added.
For months leading up the election, the president has railed against mail-in voting, claiming without evidence that the practice leads to widespread voter fraud. He has also maintained that the election would be "rigged" and that people would engage in ballot harvesting to skew the results.
Early in the morning on Wednesday, he also claimed that Democrats were trying to "steal the election" and that the legal vote counting efforts were fraudulent.
International election observers have been in the U.S. since September reporting on the 2020 national race and are expected to continue their work until the conclusion of the results.
They released on Wednesday their preliminary findings, praising the strength of American institutions and civil societies to carry out an election in the unprecedented circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic and amid uncharted levels of social and political tensions.
They said they found no evidence to support allegations of systemic wrongdoing and praised the “enormous effort” by election workers and “engaged citizens” to ensure that voters could cast their ballots in record numbers.
“The election administration, the machinery in place, the infrastructure, supported by engaged civil society, it seems to have passed the test,” said Urszula Gacek, head of the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), which is leading the long-term observation of the elections.
“This was despite a pandemic, many legal and technical challenges and deliberate attempts by the incumbent president to weaken confidence in the election process,” she said.
The observation group said the “hard-fought” accomplishment of carrying out the elections was “tarnished by legal uncertainty and unprecedented attempts to undermine public trust” and by Trump in particular.
Trump and his campaign have already signaled that they will challenge election results in states such as Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
His campaign has said it has filed suits in Michigan and Pennsylvania to stop counting ballots until it is given access to observe the process and has raised the issue of calling for a recount in Wisconsin, which The Associated Press has called for Biden. Both CNN and NBC News have projected Biden to win Michigan as well.
“The right to vote and to have that vote counted is among the most fundamental principles of democracy,” said Kari Henriksen, head of the OSCE's Parliamentary Association delegation. “In the context of COVID-19 and the rise in mail-in voting, I am concerned about attempts to restrict the counting of legally cast ballots.”
The international observers further criticized Trump’s conduct throughout the campaign, writing in their report that of particular concern was the use of “discriminatory and pejorative statements against individuals on the grounds of their gender and origin” and the use of his “official capacity for political advantage.”
They also criticized Trump for failing to commit to a peaceful transfer of power and claiming that the electoral process was “systematically rigged” without any substantial evidence. The observers said that this behavior "weaken[s] public confidence in state institutions and were perceived by many as increasing the potential for politically motivated violence after the elections."
OSCE observers, who report on elections among the 57-member nations of the OSCE, do not make a determination on whether elections are free or fair but create a neutral and nonpartisan report on the conduct of the elections and make recommendations for improvements.
The organization has, in earlier years, raised concerns that millions of residents of overseas territory and those in the District of Columbia do not have voting representation in Congress.
They also take issue with the fact that millions of convicts are barred from voting, in particular those who have served their sentences and those who are waiting for trial, pointing out that these laws disproportionately impact African Americans.
But the observers praised the upholding of freedom of expression and, despite a highly polarized media landscape, found the media offered a wide range of information that helped voters make an informed choice.
The observers are expected to remain in the country and continue their mission for at least 10 more days and said they can possibly stay longer or continue observing remotely for as long as it takes for the election to conclude.
“This election is not over, and we remain here in D.C. and in key states around the country until it is,” said Gacek, head of the ODIHR. “It is vital that every properly cast ballot is properly counted.”