The US has delivered another heavy blow against the Russia-American US relationship.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on October 22 that Moscow finds unacceptable the US warning of criminal charges to be brought against Russian diplomats if they appear at polling stations to get acquainted with US election process on November 8. Moscow chose to conduct the observations independently and not with the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) because it does not fully accept the ODIHR methodology and criteria used for assessment of the elections. Besides, it would involve additional restrictions on visiting polling stations in some states.
The idea to send a delegation of observers to the United States has been rejected by State Department.
According to State Department spokesman Mark Toner, the effort to send diplomats was a «PR stunt».
Three states – Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Texas – have even threatened to bring criminal charges against the diplomats if they appear at ballot stations.
In contrast, Russia sent personal invitations to US monitors asking them to observe the September parliamentary elections, and 63 accepted the offer. In total, 774 monitors from 63 nations received accreditation to observe Russia’s parliamentary elections. In addition, US representatives visited Russia earlier as part of an OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights’ monitoring mission.
Republican candidate Donald Trump has repeatedly claimed that that election is «rigged», which Republican officials have disputed. «I’m telling you, Nov. 8, we’d better be careful, because that election is going to be rigged», he told Fox News.
According to Trump, his own primary election was «rigged» against him. Just think about it – the leader of the major political party believes that the US voting system is flawed! The candidate has said that some people voted being ineligible, some cast ballots many times and some impersonated dead voters. A Politico / Morning Consult poll released on October 17 found that 48 % of Trump supporters said they were «not too» or «not at all» confident that votes would be accurately counted on Election Day, and 81 % of Trump supporters said they believe the election could be «stolen» from Trump as a result of voter fraud.
Around a quarter of Americans say they have «hardly any confidence» that their votes will be counted correctly, according to a recent AP / NORC survey.
According to Shyla Nelson, the co-founder of Election Justice USA, US elections are manipulated in many ways, including «voter suppression, unauthorized registration purges, district gerrymandering, gross exit poll variances, the privatization of voting machinery, and the lack of transparency in ballot processing – our elections will continue to rank among the lowest in the world in integrity».
Several key swing states use electronic voting systems with no backup paper trail. The system makes it virtually impossible for election officials to provide proof of how the election results were achieved. The reliance on electronic voting machines – often running on increasingly obsolete hardware and software – and online voting threatens public trust in US elections.
There are multiple examples of incidents that lead experts to question the safety and reliability of voting systems across the country. A LawNewz report says cyber-attacks and hacking into the voting system are a reality.
According to the OSCE / ODIHR Needs Assessment Mission (NAM) Report, some 4.1 million citizens that are residents of US territories are not eligible and some 600,000 citizens that are residents of the District of Columbia can vote in presidential elections but do not have full representation in Congress.
Around 5.8 million prisoners and ex-prisoners continue to be disenfranchised due to prohibitive and disproportionate legal regulations or burdensome procedures for reinstating voting rights in a number of states. Women are generally underrepresented in public office, holding some 20 per cent of seats in the outgoing Congress and some 25 per cent of seats in the state legislatures. There are no limits on campaign spending. The paper concludes that there is a range of vulnerabilities in the conduct of American elections.
The 2016 Democratic Primary election was riddled with irregularities and fraud. In June, six Republican candidates from the June 2016 primary election filed «Statements of Contest» in Clark County District Court based on NRS 293.410(f), which allows for an election contest on grounds that there was a «possible» malfunction in the voting or counting devices used to record and tabulate the votes.
A report by the nonprofit election integrity organization Election Justice USA (EJUSA) is recommending that Democratic primary results in numerous states, including New York and California, be decertified and that the paper ballots be recounted by hand in all states which show irregularities, where paper ballots are available, and counted by hand in all future US elections.
With all the facts adduced above, it won’t be a big surprise if many Americans, as well as people in other countries who follow the events in the United States, will question the legitimacy of the election results. As one can see, there is each and every reason to express concern over the fairness of the November 8 vote.
US media has many times raised ballyhoo over the Russian elections being unfair.
Now they do their best to downplay the irregularities of US voting system.
If the election system is fair, there is no need to prevent Russian diplomats from getting closely acquainted with the procedures. After all, Russia may be willing to take a page out of US book to perfect the election system of its own.
There is one more aspect worth mentioning here. By denying the diplomats their right to monitor the elections, the US is in violation of the 1961 Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations, which gives nations the right to monitor elections in other countries.
The document reads, «The functions of a diplomatic mission, in particular, consist in ascertaining by all lawful means conditions and developments in the receiving State».Watching the vote is part of permitted diplomatic activities.
And it’s not about the elections only. The US has just threatened Russia with new sanctions to undermine the relationship negatively affected by the differences over Ukraine, Syria, NATO expansion and disagreements over issues related to arms control and human rights.
Now the administration has taken another step to further spoil the bilateral relationship, which is at the lowest ebb to make remember the days of Cold War. It has done each and every thing to make it as bad as it could be and is on the way to make it even worse. That’s the legacy the next president of the United States is doomed to inherit.
By Alex Gorka
Re-posted from Strategic Culture on-line journal www.strategic-culture.org.