The Election Monitoring Circus Leaves Town

November 5, 2004

By Peyton Knight

The 2004 presidential election has come and gone with nary a hitch. The problems that mired the 2000 election, some of them real but most of them fabricated, were practically nonexistent this go-around. Of course, there were a few blips and minor kinks that surfaced, but we can rest assured that these too will be corrected.

Why? Because our electoral system is a certified thing of beauty. It places accountability at the local level, thereby empowering citizens to effectively police themselves and solve any unique problems that only they can diagnose. Score another one for our Founding Fathers. The only dissenters, it seems, are those from the unprecedented team of international monitors that invaded this year’s electoral proceedings.

Foreign monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the lefty protest group, Global Exchange, patrolled polling stations in several states. According to them, our system is foreign, confusing, and antiquated; mostly because it does not cater to foreign meddlers. Our Founders’ goal was to create a system that would ensure free and fair elections—not carte blanche access for outside forces. Yet to hear the foreign monitors talk, you would think the latter was more important.

“It’s the limit of arrogance,” proclaimed Danish OSCE elections monitor Soeren Soendergaard. Our humble European friend was angry that some polling stations refused access to foreign monitors, denying them an opportunity to hover over American voters as they cast their ballots. Pesky state and county laws. “Although we were officially invited to follow the U.S. presidential election, the message was not passed on to the polling stations,” he lamented. Soeren is referring to Secretary of State Colin Powell’s invitation to the OSCE.

This is a shining example of why our system is so beautiful. Constitutionally-challenged bureaucrats like Secretary Powell can invite foreign monitors ‘til the cows come home—but, ultimately, it’s up to the locals whether or not they ever step foot in a polling place.

In fact, our unique system of checks and balances, decentralized power, and local autonomy was quite the nuisance to our international visitors. Sergio Aguayo, a monitor from Mexico, offered the verdict that the United States has “the worst electoral system in the hemisphere.” Strong words, but perhaps he should be taken seriously. After all, as columnist Geri Smith reports in a recent commentary for Business Week, Mexico has traditionally “had one of the world’s most notoriously corrupt political systems.”

Smith reminds us how Mexico’s Institutional Revolutionary Party maintained a seven-decade vice-grip on power by stuffing ballot boxes, and in many instances, “party goons would simply steal ballot boxes at gunpoint.” So how can Aguayo declare the United States to have “the worst electoral system in the hemisphere” (assuming he has a remedial sense of geography)? Consider the source. Aguayo’s specific criticisms of the U.S. system are a “complete lack” of spending limits, the need to secure voting rights for felons, and (here’s the big enchilada) the nationalization and socialization of our elections through federal oversight and public financing. So much for taking Sergio seriously.

And that brings us to the crux of why these monitors descended upon us. First, they were here at the behest of politically motivated entities—the rent-a-rioters at Global Exchange and a dozen or so of Congress’ most decidedly leftist members. So as one might expect, these “unbiased” monitors are not impartial as some would have us believe.

Shortly after they arrived, we heard the siren call for abolishing the Electoral College and all its virtue for a single national system—preferred by those in Europe. OSCE monitor Konrad Olszewski declared that he preferred countries with “one national election law.” His partner and former Elections Canada officer, Ron Gould, lamented that “there is not one national election today…there are actually more than 13,000 elections today.” In other words, Gould thinks that what our country really needs is a federal election czar of sorts—a top down system that is accountable to no one.

While this may seem to be merely the unenlightened guidance of Eurocrats and therefore nothing more to ponder, frighteningly, it is taken seriously by some on Capitol Hill. In fact, one bullet America may have dodged by avoiding a Kerry presidency was a complete overhaul of the liberty-preserving system our Founding Fathers so meticulously crafted.

According to The Washington Times, Finnish election monitor Kimmo Kiljunen got some face time with the would-be president at a Kerry-Edwards rally the day before the election. “Mr. Kerry, I am an international elections observer from Finland; I have a proposal for you,” lobbied Kiljunen. He then suggested, “that Mr. Kerry should work for uniform election rules for the entire country at the federal level.” Kerry’s response? “Yes, that’s a good idea. I will do it.”

America’s system of local elections boards worked in 2004 because Americans were empowered to control the process. That is why we are the oldest and most successful representative democracy in the world. The best way to undo all of this success and reduce the United States to third world status, is to throw out our current electoral method and replace it with a nationalized system run by a federal elections czar. This is a nightmare idea that must be crushed at every turn.

Peyton Knight is Executive Director of the American Policy Center. The Center maintains an Internet site at

Tom DeWeese
[email protected]

Tom DeWeese is President of the American Policy Center and National Grassroots Coordinator for CFACT (Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow) working to help local activists organize into Freedom Pods ( He is also the author of three books, including Now Tell Me I Was Wrong, ERASE, and Sustainable: the WAR on Free Enterprise, Private Property, and Individuals.