Three states have received and denied requests from the Russian government to have their officials monitor the states' polling places in the upcoming presidential election.
In letters dated Sept. 24, Russia’s consul general in Houston, Alexander Zakharov, had requested the secretaries of states in Oklahoma, Louisiana and Texas to allow Russian officials to observe their voting process, The Associated Press reports.
Despite the date of the letters, all three secretaries of state said that they had been sent the offer in late August. Zakharov asked if Russian diplomats could observe a polling precinct in each state in order to study the “U.S. experience in [the] organization of voting process.”
“While it would be our honor to offer the opportunity to observe our voting process, it is prohibited under state law to allow anyone except election officials and voters in order around the area where voting takes place,” responded Oklahoma Secretary of State Chris Benge.
Texas offered the same reason for rejecting Zakharov’s request, while Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler cited flooding in Baton Rouge in August for his reason to turn down the offer.
State Department spokesman Mark Toner deemed Russia’s attempts to observe the election to be “nothing more than a PR stunt.”
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said that the states’ reluctance to allow Russian officials to monitor their polling precincts was “appropriate.”
U.S. officials have been concerned about Russia’s attempts to derail the legitimacy of the 2016 presidential election, openly accusing their intelligence agencies of hacking Democratic organizations and leaking the information.
Anonymous U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials have told Reuters that while they are not concerned about Russian hackers manipulating election results, they are worried about them spreading misinformation to undercut the legitimacy of whoever wins.
With GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump telling his supporters that the election will be rigged against him through voter fraud, officials are concerned that Russian hackers will circulate falsified documents online to create the public perception of fraud.
U.S. elections are not run by the federal government but by the individual states, many of which are run by predominantly Republican governments.
While Russian officials will not get their chance to observe polling places, the Organization of American States (OAS) will deploy observers to monitor voting in 15 states, the Miami Herald reports.
OAS historically has observed the elections in democratically unstable Latin American countries and the Caribbean to help ensure their integrity. This will be the first time that they monitor a U.S. election.
Former Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla, who is heading the mission, is skeptical that the presidential election could be rigged in favor of either party “because the country has a hyper-diversified electoral system, in which each state counts its own votes, and there are no unified databases that could facilitate a nationwide conspiracy.”