Vladimir Churov: On Observance of Citizens' Rights in the USA

Vladimir Churov: On Observance of Citizens' Rights in the USAElection of the President of the United States is not direct, not universal, not equal, does not ensure the secrecy of the vote. In this regard, I strongly recommend that my opponents familiarize themselves with the findings of all the OSCE Missions on Democratic Institutions and Human Rights Missions in the United States since 2002.

OSCE / ODIHR missions monitored US nationwide elections held on November 5, 2002 (general elections to the US Congress), November 2, 2004 years (United States Presidential elections), November 7 (midterm elections), November 2006 (November general election to the US Congress and the President of the United States), November 4 2008 of the year (mid-term elections to the US Congress). In them, the US authorities are recommended to solve the problem from time to time with the excessive and disproportionate restriction of the active electoral right of entire categories of American citizens. Unfortunately, over the past ten years, no significant changes for the better have happened. Since the United States assumed the role of the “ruler of destinies,” the state of the electoral system and ensuring the electoral rights of citizens go far beyond the purely internal problems of the United States. Let's try to briefly analyze some key problems.

Electoral system. The American election experience is unique in its own way: more than 18 of thousands of posts are elected from the President of the United States to the sheriff of the rural community, but the flip side of this experience is complexity, decentralization, politicization, non-transparency and, finally, partial archaism of electoral processes.

It is believed that 6 November this year. the american people will elect their president. In fact, it will not be the people who will elect the head of state with more authority, but only a very limited number of so-called electors. Thus, the president will not be the elect of American citizens, but the one who will be identified by 270 people. At the same time, electors can support the wrong candidate for whom it is “tasked” to vote. In general, the right of American citizens to elect their president can be spoken with great exaggeration, but the right of an average American to become one in general can’t be discussed.

In a report entitled "Segregation of American Citizens: Depriving Rights of Latin Americans in 2012," Advancement Project advocacy organization states that the electoral policies of many US federal subjects jeopardize the participation of millions of Latin American citizens in the November presidential election. According to this organization, in 23 states, legislative discriminatory barriers can prevent the registration and voting of more than 10 millions of US Hispanic citizens. American human rights activists rightly believe that laws restricting the right to vote reduce the representatives of national minorities naturalized in the US to “second-class” citizens compared to “white” people, undermining the possibility of their participation in the country's overall democratic development.

Election legislation. In the US, there is a decentralized system for organizing and conducting federal elections, each of the 50 states, the Federal District of Columbia and the 6 territories have separate legislation on the election of the US president. Regulatory laws and procedures even exist among the districts of the same state. At the same time, a significant amount of functions of electoral bodies are legislatively entrusted to state executive bodies, and there is practically no legal regulation of the election campaign of candidates.

The last presidential election was held in 2008, and the introduction of legal innovations began only with 2011. To date, at least 41 of draft laws that tighten citizens' voting procedures have been submitted to various state 180 instances. More 27 laws of this kind are under consideration in 6 states. 25 laws were passed and two executive orders were issued that affect the electoral process in 19 states (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin).

Of these, 17 states (Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin) adopted laws of a restrictive nature which, according to political analysts, may have an impact on the results of the elections of November 6. The states mentioned collectively nominate 218 electors, that is, virtually 80 percent needed to elect the president of the United States.

Election Administration. International observers consider the absence of a centralized independent electoral authority to be an obvious drawback of the American electoral system, which is one of the reasons for the numerous violations of citizens' electoral rights.

In accordance with US law, state and other territorial entities are involved in the organization of the voting process. Based on such features, the key instrument in using questionable electoral technologies at the state level can be (and are) the local authorities, which have the main responsibility for the formation of election commissions, the organization of voting and the announcement of its results.

According to the American press, at present the Republican Party of the United States has somewhat greater capabilities than the Democratic Party. So, Republicans control the 29 gubernatorial posts against the Democrats 20. The advantage of the Republicans is that of the nine "vacillating" states in only two - North Carolina and Colorado - the governors are Democrats. In addition, it is believed that supporters of M. Romney have an advantage in using administrative resources in Florida, Ohio, Iowa and Virginia in favor of Republicans.

Voter registration. With numerous violations of the rights of citizens in the United States, American voters are registered.
At the beginning of 2012, every fifth adult American was not on the voter lists, information about 24 million voters is not accurate. Many Americans when moving to forget to submit information about the change of address, and 2,75 million citizens registered simultaneously in several states. There are examples when they are listed immediately in six. The lists also have about 1,8 million "dead souls" (according to the USA TODAY newspaper from 14 February 2012 of the year). In order to confirm the vulnerability of the voter registration system in the state of New Hampshire, at the Republican primaries 2012, a group of activists received ballots in the name of several registered, but already deceased members of the Democratic Party and recorded this video without presenting any documents. In January, the South Carolina Attorney General of 2012 demanded to consider the facts that more 900 deceased Americans "voted" in 2010 during elections in this state.
The compilation of voter lists is governed by local law, and each state has its own. The OSCE / ODIHR Mission, which worked in America at the beginning of 2012, estimated that about 51 million American voters were not registered at the upcoming elections. In general, 4,1 million citizens who live outside the United States can not vote. More than 5 million ex-convicts remain deprived of voting rights due to restrictive legislation or cumbersome procedures to restore their rights.

Voter identification documents. As is known, there are no internal passports in the USA, they can be replaced, for example, with a driver's license, and therefore there is no unified approach to the identification of citizens at a polling station in the country.

In the 19 states, voters do not ask for ID at all at the polling station, they simply check the lists; in the 16 regions of the country, it is allowed to do without a photo with a document.
According to statistics, 11 million Americans, mostly low-income population groups, do not have photo ID cards, and the idea of ​​compulsory presentation of any official photo document for admission to voting causes a heated debate in the United States. The Republicans insist on this approach, while the Democrats stand firm against them.
In 15 states where a personal photo document is required, citizens may be denied the right to vote, even if they are on the list. In itself, the introduction of a single identification document for voting seems to be a completely logical step only if it does not violate a whole range of legal rights of Americans, which sometimes happens because, for example, in some states the only office for issuing this document only works fifth Wednesday of the month.

The security of personal data. The growing concern of the American public about the lack of confidential information about the political preferences of voters has been confirmed once again during the observation of the voting for the 2012 primaries of the year.

Thus, party affiliation data is stored electronically. They are available to the voter himself, as well as employees of county and state administrations.
Based on this data, the party headquarters are tracking the dynamics of growth in the number of their supporters. Oddly enough, these official statistics are not regarded by the parties as confidential data about voters. Thus, in 2008 on election day in South Dakota, the secretary of the district election commission reported that in Hughes County to participate in the November 4 elections 2008, 11 162 local voters are registered on the lists, of which 2 940 are Democratic supporters, 6 935 are Republicans 14 - libertarians and 1 274 - supporters of the "independent." And at one of the polling stations in the county of Davey (South Dakota) on the working table of the commission there was a printed version of the complete voter list of the county with the data on party affiliation (affiliation) indicated in it.

There is no membership in political parties in the USA. Similar information was reproduced in a printed voter list for this polling station. Due to the lack of reliable telephone communication with the PEC county administration, it was proposed to establish the identification of voters. At the same polling station, observers recorded a separate voter list under the heading "Inactive Voters," also indicating their party sympathies. Copies of these lists were also at the disposal of a national NGO that monitored elections at this polling station; all the voters could read them.

Early voting. Numerous violations of the rights of voters are regularly allowed in the course of early voting, which is in itself one of the problems in the electoral system and consists, in particular, during the period of early voting "very important events take place in the country, in particular, the debates of candidates in Presidents who could influence the voter's will, but can no longer, because he has already cast his vote early. "

However, in the past few years, concerted efforts have been made in the United States to significantly expand the voter’s voting opportunities not only on the traditional first Tuesday (after the first Monday) in November, but more convenient in time and format. As a result, the possibility of early voting is provided for by 32 state law. In addition, absentee voting by mail is generally permitted in the United States, during which it is very difficult to trace the fate of a newsletter.

At present, in the state of 21, voters must explain - to prove that on election day they will be outside the city, busy at work, unable to come to the polling station for family reasons or for medical reasons. In 27 states, you can vote by mail ahead of time without giving any reason. In 2 states - Oregon and Washington, there are no open polling stations at all; elections are held only by mail. Moreover, all ballots must be received by election commissions before they are closed on election day, that is, virtually all residents vote in advance (mail goes a few days).

Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Homes conducted a study on early voting. As a result, he uncovered numerous violations of the law in more than 10 state districts during local elections held in 2011. D. Housmann noted that in 21 District, the number of “early members” in 2 and more than the average percentage of the state, and in the 101 case did not indicate the reason for requesting a ballot for early voting.

According to the same study, in the 16 counties of the state there were more polling participants registered than the residents themselves, who according to the census of the population of the 2010 year reached the electoral age.

The electoral rights of American citizens are violated even when another form of voting is used - trust voting, when a voter chooses a trustee and entrusts him with a power of attorney for the right to vote for himself.

The Pentagon, for example, provides almost 100-percentage turnout of military personnel at polling stations, and voting takes place under the supervision of commanders.

Accounting and counting of votes. Electronic voting systems are being actively introduced in the USA. At the same time, the American technical devices do not provide for the function of printing out or any other documentary evidence of citizen participation in the electoral process. Moreover, their software has been declared a commercial secret and is not subject to control, which in principle allows the operators of such systems to reset or rewrite votes in favor of one candidate or another, leaving no trace of violations.
In Maryland even conducted an experiment on hacking such computers. Specialists easily hacked the system, falsified the results, but were faced with the fact that the manufacturer of Diebold machines still declared the result successful, writing off all the "flaws" to "the inevitable growing pains." Everything happened is explained simply: the owners of Diebold openly supported the Republicans, including finance.

It is not by chance that there is still a widespread opinion in the United States that in 2004, the George W. Bush team actively resorted to vote fraud using electronic voting systems.
Since the beginning of 2000, ODIHR experts have consistently noted the problems of voting in the United States when using electronic machines. This includes failure to observe the secrecy of voting, the need for proper paper recording of voting results with the possibility of mechanical verification, ensuring the transparency of electronic machines, issues of public confidence in technical voting tools with the possibility of obtaining software codes, and independent testing of electronic machines, and introducing the possibility of recalculation votes with a minimum difference of votes, and much more.

However, none of these problems has been resolved at the federal level in the United States.

Judicial protection of electoral rights. Representatives of US authorities prefer to avoid public discussion of revealed violations of electoral rights of citizens. In fact, a substantive discussion of violations of the US electoral legislation and of American voting rights does not currently go beyond the activity of bloggers on the Internet. However, despite the obvious value of blogs as an important means of communication and a source of information gathered by eyewitnesses, according to the facts cited, the US authorities do not conduct any official proceedings or judicial appeals.

One of the most popular bloggers in America assessed the current situation: “We see reports of electoral fraud in other countries, but we never think seriously that this can happen on a scale that can change the election results. This is America, we say to ourselves it just can't happen here! "

Election observation. Monitoring of presidential and parliamentary elections in the United States is mainly carried out by observers (poll watchers) from candidates and political parties. In areas of concern with respect to the rights of minority regions, local NGOs (around 100), which are members of the Election Protection Coalition, are involved in this activity. In addition to observing the voting, these organizations help voters apply to relevant commissions and courts with complaints of violations of their rights.

The status of activists of American NGOs at polling stations remains uncertain. According to the laws of several states, local human rights defenders are allowed to be present during voting and counting of votes. In other regions, this permission applies only to the first or second stage.

In many states, the law generally bypasses the issue of national observers, and the regulation of supervision, as in the case of foreigners, is left to the discretion of election officials.

The rules that govern the activities of public election observers are contradictory. In the US 39 states, they have the right to challenge the legality of citizen participation in elections at a polling station on election day. As a rule, this must be done in writing or under oath. Despite the fact that the observer must have "compelling reasons" to challenge the rights of the voter, only in 15 states it is necessary to prove their validity.

There are cases when some public organizations publicly and without proof accused voters of illegal voting. So, in May 2012, in North Carolina, conservative observer J. O'Keefe videotaped “suspicious” people at the polling station entrance with subsequent posting of the video on the Internet, for which, however, he was later held responsible for defamation.

In general, civil society monitoring in the United States over the organization of the will of citizens is tied to a two-party system, governed by local customs rather than the law. It is fragmented and influenced by election commissions, which often leads not to protection, but vice versa - to a violation of the electoral rights of American citizens, including free will and secrecy of the vote.

International election observation. For the majority of American citizens, the participation of representatives of foreign countries in observing voting in elections in the United States still remains a kind of exotic, and in many electoral districts they simply do not know about US international obligations in the electoral sphere.
Currently, only in the states of Missouri, South Dakota, and New Mexico, as well as in the District of Columbia, there are laws that allow foreign observers to enter the election process. In other regions, the question of the activities of foreign observers is in the competence of local authorities.

The National Association of State Secretaries adopted a resolution in 2010, inviting international OSCE observers to come to the United States with monitoring missions. In past years, the participants of such missions were repeatedly denied access to polling stations, even in those districts that were “open” to foreign observers.
Very eloquent is the fact that the United States has never had full-fledged OSCE missions. At the same time, the OSCE ODIHR repeatedly called on the US authorities to take measures to fulfill their international obligations, including securing the rights of international observers, their ability to be present during voting and vote counting by law, and not at the discretion of local organizers and polling station leaders. Todd Jelos, President of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, described the 2012 events of the year as follows: "For more than a century, the United States has not seen such a widespread attack on the electoral rights of man." The US Department of Justice was forced to accept the association’s demand and invite UN representatives to this presidential election.

The use of selective political technologies. It is well known that the USA is the birthplace of various electoral political technologies, and not always honest ones.
In the presidential election 1864 of the year in which Abraham Lincoln participated, he was born, as they would say now, "black PR": cartoons of Democrats appeared in the newspapers, exposing them as outspoken traitors, were fabricated and duplicated the secret agreement between Peaceful Democrats and Confederates, which was distributed in the form of a pamphlet exclusively among citizens who sympathize with the Democratic Party.

Along with this, administrative resources were widely used in various forms, especially during the voting of military personnel.

As a result of all the contrivances for A. Lincoln, 55 percent of voters and 78 percent of electors cast their votes (in the electoral college, the votes were distributed as 212 against 21).

In the further development of electoral technologies has contributed Tammany Hall - the political organization of the Democratic Party in New York, which arose on the basis of the St. Nicholas Society created in 1789 by William Muni. Tammani (after the name of the legendary Indian leader), who opposed the aristocracy at that time and actively supported T. Jefferson.

In 1808, the Society built its hall in New York called Tammany Hall. Subsequently, it became a political machine for holding candidates for the Democratic Party candidates, who became famous for numerous cases of bribery, gangsterism, and embezzlement from the bosses of this organization, who for many years held the executive power of the city and state of New York.

It should be particularly noted that the practice of holding TV debates began in America with Kennedy's famous TV debates with Richard Nixon 26 of September 1960. From now on, the leader of the country was obliged to take care not only of the persuasiveness and logical symmetry of his speeches, but also the color of his tie, as well as the presence on his face of a dazzling smile, the public perfection of his personal family life and political activities.

Along the way, a family-paid advertisement was spun on TV - a short program “On a cup of coffee at Kennedy”. The viewer found himself in the warm and welcoming atmosphere of a “typical American home” and “a typical American family”: Rosie’s mother cleverly knits on knitting needles and answers questions from housewives, younger children are touching and obedient, John himself with a pleasant smile on his lips from time to time appears in the back plan. Unobtrusive, but recognizable. This show was invented by his brother Bobby. Proper use of TV decided in 1960 the outcome of elections, in which Kennedy beat his rival with a minimum score, gaining an 50,5 percentage of Massachusetts votes.

As for other forms of political and social advertising, the first political badges also appeared in America under George Washington and looked like uniform buttons. One of the ways to express electoral sympathies was the wearing of tapes with portraits of candidates or drawings on a patriotic theme by party functionaries and political party supporters. Not so long ago, a new trend appeared - the use of virtual images of icons on the Internet - web buttons, where users can place them on personal websites and thereby express sympathy to their candidate. It is significant that prior to 1972, the “sign” election campaign was conducted only in English. However, starting with the Nixon campaign, badges for national minorities appeared: Poles, Armenians, Estonians, etc.

Pressure on non-system "third" parties and forcing subordinate employees to "correct voting" has become a hallmark of the current presidential election campaign in the United States. Jill E. Stein (Jill Ellen Stein) - an officially registered candidate for the US presidency from the dwarf Green Party - was arrested on October 16 this year. when trying to hold a "sit-down protest" opposite the venue of the debate between B. Obama and M. Romney in a suburb of New York. The ecologist protested against the non-admission of representatives of the “third parties” to participate in the televised debates (in 2008, 2 million American citizens voted for them). Police charged Mr. Stein with a violation of public order, and an elderly American woman spent eight hours at the police station in handcuffs, although such treatment clearly does not correspond to the severity of the offense - causing interference to public transport, especially since there were no vehicles on the street because of the overlap of the movement of the secret service.

In accordance with the criminal code of New York, a candidate from the "green" faces up to 15 days or a fine of up to 250 dollars. At the same time in more "strict" states, she could get up to a year in prison.

American human rights defenders fix other examples of pressure on “third parties”, which are actually excluded from the political process by imposing various administrative barriers (tougher registration conditions, higher advertising rates, etc.). Representatives of these parties (in addition to J. Stein, the libertarian G. Johnson and the ultra-conservative V. Goode) are gaining a maximum of 1-2 percent, but under the conditions of rating equality between B. Obama and M. Romney can play the role of "spoilers" for leaders of the presidential race.

This situation creates more problems for the Republicans (it is on their “field” that Johnson and Hood play) than for the Democrats, who are hampered by J. Stein. Supporters of M. Romney in a number of states are trying to prevent competitors from participating in the elections, while not disdaining to act on the verge of a foul. For example, in Pennsylvania, they hired a private detective to verify the authenticity of the signatures for Johnson. He, posing as an FBI agent, which in itself is an offense, threatened signature collectors with being held accountable for fraud.

In the course of the current election campaign in the USA, the widespread practice is when business owners actually force employees to vote for the right candidate. So, the owners of the conglomerate "Koch Indusrties", brothers Charles and David Kohi, who are the main sponsors of the ultraconservative "Tea Party Movement", sent thousands of "correct candidates" to their 50 employees. The letter said that the choice is a private matter of a citizen, but there was an unequivocal “warning-stimulus”: in case of victory of B. Obama, dismissal is inevitable. Similar content and directional documents were sent to their subordinates by the Republican owners of the Westgate Resorts hotel chain and the computer company ASG Software Solutions.

These facts appear to represent only a small one - the visible part of a huge iceberg of dirty technologies and outright disregard for the electoral rights of American citizens.

Summing up, it should be stated that all 223 of the year stories organizing and conducting democratic elections in the United States (the first presidential elections were held in 1789) are replete with examples of violations of the electoral rights of American citizens. These facts make up only a small part of them and are clear evidence that the electoral system and electoral legislation of the United States of America are far from perfect. They are contradictory, archaic, and, moreover, do not meet the democratic principles that the United States proclaimed as fundamental in its foreign and domestic policy.

In my firm conviction, an unbiased observer will be able to once again see this in the course of the election of the US President 2012 of the year.
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