this June 28, 2016 file photo, an elections clerk cuts from
a strip of "I Voted" stickers at a polling place
in Oklahoma City. Officials in Oklahoma, Texas and Louisiana
say they've denied a request by Russian officials to be
present at polling stations during next month's election.
The U.S. State Department's spokesman says Russia hasn't
participated in an international mission to observe
elections, so its effort to do so on the state level
represents "nothing more than a PR stunt."
OKLAHOMA CITY —
Oklahoma and at least two other states said Friday that they have
denied efforts by Russian officials to be present at polling
stations during the election, requests the U.S. State Department's
spokesman dismissed as "nothing more than a PR stunt."
secretary of state's office said it received a letter in August
from Russia's consulate general in Houston seeking to have one of
its officers present at a voting precinct to study the "US
experience in organization of voting process." But the office
denied the request, noting Oklahoma law prohibits anyone except
election officials and voters from being present while voting is
officials in Louisiana and Texas said they denied similar requests
from Russian officials.
presidential nominee Donald Trump has faced criticism for
suggesting the election might be "rigged," and the U.S.
earlier this month accused Russia of coordinating the theft and
disclosure of emails from the Democratic National Committee and
other institutions and individuals in the U.S. to influence the
outcome of the election.
hacked emails from accounts of individuals within Democratic
nominee Hillary Clinton's campaign have been posted on the website
of the WikiLeaks organization. Russian officials have denied their
involvement in the cyberattacks.
While there is a
formal process for foreign governments to observe U.S. elections,
individual states maintain the authority to approve or deny those
requests, said State Department spokesman Mark Toner.
suggestion that we rejected Russia's proposal to observe our
elections is false," Toner said in a statement.
"Individual parties — foreign governments, NGOs, etc. —
are welcome to apply to state governments to observe our
participated in an international mission to observe elections, so
its effort to do so on the state level represents "nothing
more than a PR stunt," Toner said.
White House Press
Secretary Josh Earnest said the purpose of the requests was
uncertain. He added it was "appropriate" that people
might be suspicious of Russia's motives.
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 or around the area where voting
takes place," Oklahoma Secretary of State Chris Benge wrote
in a response to Alexander Zakharov, Russia's consul general in
Texas has similar
prohibitions on entering polling places, and Louisiana Secretary
of State Tom Schedler denied the request, citing that state's
catastrophic flooding in the Baton Rouge area in August.
to state election officials was dated Sept. 24, but Oklahoma and
Texas officials said they received it in late August.
did not return a message from The Associated Press inquiring about
the discrepancy, and a request for comment from the Russian
Embassy in Washington was not immediately answered.