By Travis Perry │ Kansas Watchdog
OSAWATOMIE — A pair of international election observers made a point of stopping in Kansas to speak with government officials and party leaders about the inner workings of the state’s electoral process, but they left the Sunflower State long before the gears start turning Nov. 6.
The observers, with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, were dispatched to Kansas on Oct. 15. They met with election officials at the Kansas Secretary of State’s office, as well as with several political party leaders and election officials in Wyandotte, Ford and Jackson counties, among others.
But less than a week before Election Day, they’re long gone. Brad Bryant, director of elections and legislative matters for the Kansas Secretary of State, said the observers left Kansas on Oct. 22, bound for Colorado.
“They’re not coming back, unless something changes,” Bryant said.
Thomas Rymer, OSCE spokesman, said the observers were tasked with looking at a broad range of issues, including electoral frameworks, candidate and voter registration and the balance of reporting in the media, just to name a few topics. Rymer confirmed the pair would not visit any Kansas polling stations on Election Day.
Wyandotte county election commissioner Bruce Newby met with the observers for a planned 30-minute meeting that stretched to two hours. Newby said all it really amounted to was a discussion about general procedures for the election.
“I looked at it as some Europeans that were curious at how we succeed in doing what we do, by holding free and open elections,” Newby said. “There wasn’t anything that wasn’t real obvious in terms of an answer from what Kansas law said.”
The OSCE is a regional security organization that includes 56 states from Europe, Central Asia and North America. While it is tied to the United Nations, it is still an independent organization. The OSCE monitors elections worldwide for fair practices, including the U.S. presidential elections in 2004 and 2008, and the mid-term elections in 2010. It started this year’s U.S. mission in early October.
In keeping tabs on the American electoral process, the OSCE has in turn garnered a few harsh critics along the way. The most outspoken opponent has been Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who said observers are not allowed, by law, to be inside polling locations in that state.
OSCE will release a preliminary report of its findings on Nov. 7, and a final report will be presented eight weeks after the election.