Election officials in three states say they’ve received and rejected requests to have Russian diplomats present at polling places when U.S. voters cast ballots for their next president Nov. 8.
Russia’s consul general in Houston, Alexander K. Zakharov, outlined the requests in letters sent to election officials in Oklahoma, Texas and Louisiana that said he wished to deploy representatives “for a short period of time, when convenient,” with the “goal of studying the U.S. experience in organization of voting process.”
The requests were refused by all three states and addressed by the Obama administration Friday during press briefings at both the White House and Foggy Bottom.
“I think it is unclear exactly what the Russians were intending to do in this case. I think it’s appropriate that people might be suspicious of their motives, or at least their motives might be different than what they have publicly stated, given the nefarious activities that they’ve engaged in in cyberspace,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Friday.
“There’s nothing for us to fear from having Russian observers observing our election,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said at a separate briefing. “But those requests that go to the states are for the states to decide. We’ve got nothing to fear and nothing to hide from that.”
Recalling Russia’s decision not participate in election monitoring conducted by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Mr. Kirby said “The fact that they have chosen not to join the OSCE mission makes clear this issue and the story are nothing more than a PR stunt.”