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UPDATE: Tennessee attorney general says prohibiting U.N. election observers is 'constitutionally suspect'

March 25th, 2013 11:53 am by Hank Hayes

Updated at 8:15 p.m.


Tennessee legislation prohibiting United Nations’ representatives from observing elections in the state is “constitutionally suspect,” according to a state attorney general’s opinion.


The legislation, sponsored by state Rep. James “Micah” Van Huss, calls for U.N. representatives to face a misdemeanor offense if caught watching elections at state polling locations.


But the attorney general’s office said that because of the Supremacy Clause in the U.S. Constitution, U.N. officials would be immune from prosecution under federal law.


“The federal government as part of its foreign affairs policy has decided to participate in the United Nations and has chosen to participate in reciprocal international programs regarding the observation of elections in participating countries by representatives of other participating countries,” the attorney general’s opinion said. “The Supremacy Clause precludes a state from interfering with the United States government’s exercise of its foreign affairs policy under federal law.”


Van Huss, R-Jonesborough, said in a past e-mail he authored the bill “out of a desire to reinforce our eroding national sovereignty.”


He cited a news story noting the U.N. and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) sent a 44-member multinational delegation to the United States to monitor and observe America’s election process for human rights violations.


The attorney general’s office pointed out the United States is an OSCE member committed since 1990 to hold “free and democratic elections” and to allow member nations to observe each other’s elections.


“The OSCE’s policy is to comply with national, state and local laws when conducting its election observations,” the attorney general’s opinion explained.


Van Huss’ U.N. bill had advanced out of a House Local Government Committee and was headed toward a House floor vote.


But the bill was then redirected to a House Civil Justice Subcommittee.


State Rep. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, had asked for the attorney general’s opinion on the legislation.


The bill was scheduled to be considered by Lundberg’s subcommittee today. The Senate version of the bill is sponsored by state Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains.


For more go to www.capitol.tn.gov. The bill’s number is HB 589.


For more on the opinion go to http://www.tn.gov/attorneygeneral/op/2013/op13-25.pdf.


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Tennessee legislation prohibiting United Nations’ representatives from observing elections in the state is “constitutionally suspect,” according to a state attorney general’s opinion.


The legislation, filed by state Rep. James “Micah” Van Huss, calls for U.N. representatives to face a misdemeanor offense if caught observing elections in the state.


But the attorney general’s office said that because of the Supremacy Clause in the U.S. Constitution, U.N. officials would be immune from prosecution under federal law.

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