International election monitors pay visit to county

The team will observe voting in hopes of raising confidence
in the system.
Wednesday, September 22, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 8:16 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

A four-member team of international election experts will observe election procedures during a Thursday afternoon meeting with Boone County Clerk Wendy Noren.

Sponsored by Global Exchange, a San Francisco-based international human rights organization, the group has been in Missouri since Friday. Its itinerary also includes visits to Kansas City, St. Louis and Jefferson City.

The four members hail from the Philippines, Canada, England and South Africa. The group is part of a larger delegation that consists of 20 election observers from 15 countries who are also visiting four other states: Arizona, Georgia, Florida and Ohio.

Its goal: to boost voter confidence and participation in this year’s election.

Global Exchange spokesman Tim Kingston said the need to observe elections in this country became apparent after the 2000 presidential election.

“Both sides can agree that that process was a mess,” Kingston said. “And in the United States, it’s essential that people have faith in their election process, so people go out and vote.”

Noren said she did not know the particulars of the group’s meeting, but they have expressed interest in seeing the county’s optical-scan ballots.

“I’m going to kind of leave it up to them to see what they want to see,” she said.

Noren said she hopes to show the group the laptop computers that will be in polling places in November. The machines will help poll workers when thousands of voters want to change their addresses on Election Day.

Terence Humphreys, chief executive for Electoral Reform International Services in England, said the election observers are focusing on three areas during their trip to Missouri — voter registration, campaign financing and voting systems.

The point of the observation, Humphreys said, is to engage in dialogue with election officials and voters to see if the election process can be improved.

“There are always going to be flaws,” Humphreys said. “Are there flaws in the system? Are they deliberate? Are there any at all?”

Humphreys said all 20 of the election officials working with Global Exchange are volunteers. He hopes the group’s efforts in the United States are not viewed as a threat but rather as a commitment to seeing American democracy succeed.

“This is not an attempt to be big brother,” he said. “It’s not an attempt to be a slap on the hand. That’s just how important America is to us.”

Ultimately, Humphreys would like the visit to reinvigorate American citizens to volunteer to observe elections domestically, he said.

The group is scheduled to stay in Columbia for an hour and a half. Noren said she has recommended the members stay the night in town so they can attend the Twilight Festival downtown and see some of the politicking that takes place there.

“When they come to this country, they tend to see a lot of administrative stuff, like the election office,” she said. “I think they need to see the election process.”

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