2020 U.S. Election Will Have Only A Fraction Of the International Observers It Was Meant To

Only a small fraction of the international election observers that were supposed to be sent to the U.S. to monitor November's election are actually coming.

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe's (OSCE) election monitoring body, the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), had been planning to send 500 long-term and short-term observers due to the level of concern about the integrity of the 2020 election.

But those plans have been drastically scaled back and the ODIHR is now sending only 30 long-term observers from 13 member states because of coronavirus-related concerns and travel restrictions.

Katya Andrusz, a spokeswoman for the ODIHR, said the mission will be joined a few days before Election Day by around 100 parliamentary observers from the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly.

Meanwhile, an organization representing Latin American countries said it hasn't been invited to send election observers this year—even as President Donald Trump continues to baselessly claim the election will be tainted with widespread voter fraud and has repeatedly declined to say whether he will accept the results of the November 3 vote.

The Organization of American States (OAS) sent 41 election observers and experts to monitor the 2016 presidential election, led by former Costa Rican president aura Chinchilla. An OAS spokesperson confirmed to Newsweek that it has yet to receive an invitation from the U.S. government this year. The U.S. State Department did not respond to questions about the OAS.

But a Star Department spokesperson told Newsweek: "The United States will welcome a group of international election observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly.

"All of the 57 OSCE participating States, including the United States, have committed to invite OSCE to observe their elections. The United States regularly participates in OSCE observation of elections in other countries."

The ODIHR had warned the November vote "will be the most challenging in recent decades" in its assessment mission report earlier this year. The report recommended member states send 100 long-term and 400 short-term observers to follow Election Day proceedings in the U.S.

But the organization is now only sending 30 long-term observers and 11 experts in what has been described as a "limited election observation mission" after OSCE member states, which recruit and fund the observers, responded with caution amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The long-term observers and experts will arrive in the U.S. this week led by Urszula Gacek, a Polish former politician. The experts will be based in Washington, D.C. while the observers will be deployed throughout the country.

"The mission will assess to what extent the elections are held in line with international obligations and standards for democratic elections, including the commitments agreed to by all OSCE countries, as well as with national legislation," the OSCE said.

The short-term observers would also have been deployed to polling stations around the country—with a focus on battleground states—on November 3, but they are not coming this time. Parliamentary observers usually join the short-term observers for Election Day observation.

"The safety concerns as well as continuing travel restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic are creating challenges for all our election activities and particularly for the deployment of long- and short-term observers, who are sent directly by OSCE countries," Katya Andrusz, the spokeswoman for the ODIHR, told Newsweek.

She said the organization had ended up with a "huge shortfall" of long-term observers after making its request.

"In the end, we judged that it would simply be infeasible to deploy enough short-term observers to allow a meaningful observation of election day, and therefore changed the format of the observation activity to what we call a Limited Election Observation Mission," Andrusz said.

She added: "It's important to stress that an election is far more than a one-day event, and ODIHR's observation takes careful account of the situation in the run-up to the election, as well as election day and its aftermath."

The questions surrounding the integrity of this year's presidential election led The Carter Center to turn its focus to the U.S. for the first time.

The organization founded by former President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, has worked for decades to ensure fair elections in Africa, Latin America and Asia. Last month, the Center announced that it will work to provide information to the public about the election and encourage election officials to ensure transparency and access to observers.

The Center is not deploying observers, but said it "might explore some limited election observation activities" depending on developments.

In a statement, Carter Center CEO Paige Alexander said: "Given the scale of problems today—including deep polarization, lack of confidence in elections, obstacles to participation by minority groups and others, persistent racial injustice, and the COVID-19 pandemic—the Center has decided that it should try to improve elections here at home, drawing on its global experience observing troubled elections and its knowledge of international standards."

Voters cast their ballots on Election Day November 04, 2008, at Centreville High School in Clifton, Virginia. Paul J. Richards/AFP via Getty Images