Oklahoma's top lawyer said he will strictly enforce rules designed to keep observers and pollsters from influencing votes during the coming election.
In a letter to the State Election Board on Thursday, state Attorney General E. Scott Pruitt clarified those rules but said he does not anticipate an international election observation group will be on site Nov. 6 in Oklahoma.
Pruitt joined state officials in Texas and Iowa in threatening legal ramifications — even arrest — of election code violators after complaints swirled online and in some media outlets that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe would be observing the general election.
Comprised of representatives from 56 countries, including the United States, the organization has observed election practices nationally and on the state level since 2002 and was invited to do so again this month.
In his letter, Pruitt wrote that only election officials and others authorized by law are allowed within 50 feet of a ballot box during an election, and no one but these and registered voters are allowed inside the specified enclosure areas at polling sites.
Violators can be found guilty of a misdemeanor under the Oklahoma Election Code, he said, and may be subject to a fine of $10,000, a year in the county jail or both.
Paul Ziriax, secretary of the State Election Board, said the organization has not observed an election in Oklahoma since he became secretary in 2009. He said he met with two of its representatives several weeks ago and learned they would not be on site this time around, either.
“If they were here to tell us how to run elections we would politely tell them to leave, but that wasn't the case. They were here to learn about our election process,” Ziriax said.
Kay Stimson, communications and special projects director for National Association of Secretaries of State, said about 44 representatives from the organization arrived in the U.S. in October and were briefed on national and state election laws before they spread out to meet with state officials.
She said the group assured her organization that calls from some domestic civil rights organizations for more scrutiny “have not changed the original purpose or scope of their mission, which is limited to observation activities.”