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The Brief: Oct. 24, 2012

The battle over voting rights in Texas appears to have gone international, and some state officials aren't happy about it.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott discusses the Affordable Care Act at The Texas Tribune Festival on September 22, 2012.

The Big Conversation:

The battle over voting rights in Texas appears to have gone international, and some state officials aren't happy about it.

On Tuesday, Attorney General Greg Abbott sent a sharply worded letter to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, a group affiliated with the U.N. that plans to monitor Texas' elections on Nov. 6.

Abbott's message to the group, which has been dubbed the world's biggest election monitoring organization: Come at your own risk.

"The Texas Election Code governs anyone who participates in Texas elections — including representatives of the OSCE," Abbott wrote. "The OSCE’s representatives are not authorized by Texas law to enter a polling place. It may be a criminal offense for OSCE’s representatives to maintain a presence within 100 feet of a polling place’s entrance. Failure to comply with these requirements could subject the OSCE’s representatives to criminal prosecution for violating state law."

The group is sending representatives to 40 states, including Texas, on Election Day, presumably to monitor the effects of voter ID laws and changes to voter registration rules, which the organization has opposed. In the letter, Abbott took issue with the fact that that the group met in April with Project Vote, which unsuccessfully fought recent changes to Texas' voter registration laws.

"The OSCE may be entitled to its opinions about Voter ID laws, but your opinion is legally irrelevant in the United States, where the Supreme Court has already determined that Voter ID laws are constitutional,” Abbott said. (Texas' voter ID law is hung up in court and will not be in effect for this year's elections.)

In another letter, Secretary of State Hope Andrade asked the group to clarify its mission but also tried to clear up any misinformation about the organization's intentions. "We have had a long and productive relationship with OSCE and election process observers," Andrade wrote, adding, "The exchange of information establishing best practices has been important and insightful and, up to now, completely devoid of any partisanship."

On Twitter, Gov. Rick Perry praised the secretary of state's response but, like Abbott, lashed out against the prospect of international monitors. "No UN monitors/inspectors will be part of any TX election process; I commend @TXsecofstate for swift action to clarify issue," he wrote.


  • The stretch of the State Highway 130 tollway boasting the highest speed limit in the nation — 85 mph — opens today. The Austin American-Statesman has a look at the debate still raging over the road's safety.
  • In a New York Times story on Republicans' growing unease with Super PACs, U.S. Sen John Cornyn, R-Texas, reiterates his support for legislatively changing the campaign finance system after the November election. "Revisiting the federal fund-raising restrictions and coordinated limits on both parties, and even smaller, common-sense steps like requiring electronic filing for federal candidates are a few good things that could be looked at next year," says Cornyn, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. The Texas senator first expressed support for such reform last month, breaking from several party leaders, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who have opposed campaign finance reform.
  • In a surprise move, a Republican state senator on Monday voiced support for gay-rights legislation, the Dallas Voice reports. At a meeting of a gay Republican group, the senator, John Carona of Dallas, said in an interview that he would support three bills — involving workplace discrimination, domestic partner benefits at state universities, and adoption — that Equality Texas, a leading gay rights group in Texas, plans to push in next year's legislative session. "I’m not sure I’d be prepared to sponsor it, but if it made it’s way to the Senate, I’d be prepared to vote in favor of it," Carona said, adding that he was "evolving" on the issue of gay marriage. "I’m very undecided on the issue, and I struggle with it. I think the whole country is evolving, and I know for a fact that our young people are evolving, including young Republicans," he said.

"How well minority populations do in Texas is how well Texas will do." — Former state demographer Steve Murdock at the second day of the major lawsuit challenging the state's school finance system


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