3 states say they de­nied Rus­sian re­quests to mon­i­tor elec­tion

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - NEWS - By Sean Mur­phy

OK­LA­HOMA CITY >> Ok­la­homa and at least two other states said Fri­day that they have de­nied ef­forts by Rus­sian of­fi­cials to be present at polling sta­tions dur­ing the elec­tion, re­quests the U.S. State De­part­ment’s spokesman dis­missed as “noth­ing more than a PR stunt.”

The Ok­la­homa sec­re­tary of state’s of­fice said it re­ceived a let­ter in Au­gust from Rus­sia’s con­sulate gen­eral in Hous­ton seek­ing to have one of its of­fi­cers present at a vot­ing precinct to study the “US ex­pe­ri­ence in or­ga­ni­za­tion of vot­ing process.” But the of­fice de­nied the re­quest, not­ing Ok­la­homa law pro­hibits any­one ex­cept elec­tion of­fi­cials and vot­ers from be­ing present while vot­ing is tak­ing place.

Elec­tion of­fi­cials in Louisiana and Texas said they de­nied sim­i­lar re­quests from Rus­sian of­fi­cials.

Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Don­ald Trump has faced crit­i­cism for sug­gest­ing the elec­tion might be “rigged,” and the U.S. ear­lier this month ac­cused Rus­sia of co­or­di­nat­ing the theft and dis­clo­sure of emails from the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee and other in­sti­tu­tions and in­di­vid­u­als in the U.S. to in­flu­ence the out­come of the elec­tion.

Thou­sands of hacked emails from ac­counts of in­di­vid­u­als within Demo­cratic nom­i­nee Hil­lary Clin­ton’s cam­paign have been posted on the web­site of the Wik­iLeaks or­ga­ni­za­tion. Rus­sian of­fi­cials have de­nied their in­volve­ment in the cy­ber­at­tacks.

While there is a for­mal process for for­eign gov­ern­ments to ob­serve U.S. elec­tions, in­di­vid­ual states main­tain the au­thor­ity to ap­prove or deny those re­quests, said State De­part­ment spokesman Mark Toner.

“Any sug­ges­tion that we re­jected Rus­sia’s pro­posal to ob­serve our elec­tions is false,” Toner said in a state­ment. “In­di­vid­ual par­ties — for­eign gov­ern­ments, NGOs, etc. — are wel­come to ap­ply to state gov­ern­ments to ob­serve our elec­tions.”

Rus­sia hasn’t par­tic­i­pated in an in­ter­na­tional mis­sion to ob­serve elec­tions, so its ef­fort to do so on the state level rep­re­sents “noth­ing more than a PR stunt,” Toner said.

White House Press Sec­re­tary Josh Earnest said the pur­pose of the re­quests was un­cer­tain. He added it was “ap­pro­pri­ate” that peo­ple might be sus­pi­cious of Rus­sia’s mo­tives.

“While it would be our honor to of­fer the op­por­tu­nity to ob­serve our vot­ing process, it is pro­hib­ited un­der state law to al­low any­one ex­cept elec­tion of­fi­cials and vot­ers in or around the area where vot­ing takes place,” Ok­la­homa Sec­re­tary of State Chris Benge wrote in a re­sponse to Alexan­der Zakharov, Rus­sia’s con­sul gen­eral in Hous­ton.

Texas has sim­i­lar pro­hi­bi­tions on en­ter­ing polling places, and Louisiana Sec­re­tary of State Tom Schedler de­nied the re­quest, cit­ing that state’s cat­a­strophic flood­ing in the Ba­ton Rouge area in Au­gust.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Vot­ers make their choices in the bal­lot booth March 1 dur­ing pri­mary elec­tion day at Sher­rod Ele­men­tary School in Ar­ling­ton, Texas.

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