A majority of American voters believe that the upcoming presidential election stands to be the most important of their lifetime, yet it is also one that many believe will not be easy, free, or fair. This contest, after all, is taking place amid a global public-health crisis that is changing the way voters cast their ballots, and within a political environment where the incumbent has refused to commit to accepting defeat.
In an election such as this one, “it is all the more important to have a neutral, nonpartisan group of international observers who are taking account of the entire process,” Urszula Gacek, a former Polish politician who will be leading an international delegation monitoring the November poll, said at a press conference in Washington, D.C., this past week. A recent study has shown that a majority of Americans feel the same way.
The problem is that the factors that have bolstered the need for having neutral foreign observers present at next month’s election are the same ones that have made those observers’ jobs all the more difficult.
American voters might be surprised to learn that their elections are subject to foreign observation—a practice more commonly associated with younger, more fragile democracies. In fact, international observers have been a part of American democracy for nearly two decades. Gacek’s team is from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, a transatlantic group of 57 North American, European, and Asian nations (including the United States) that has been invited by the U.S. government to observe almost every national election since 2002. Its previous U.S. mission, made up of 49 experts and observers, was for the 2018 midterms.