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Three US States Rejected Russia's Trolly Request To Monitor The Elections

Amid Trump's allegations of a "rigged" election, Russia sought to send its officials to polling stations on Nov. 8.

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In an apparent act of political trolling, the Russian Consulate General in Houston sought permission in August to have its officers present at ballot stations for the purpose of "studying the US experience in organization of voting process" on election day.

Remember, US intelligence officials have accused the Russian government of being behind the hacks that leaked damaging emails from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton's campaign staff as a way to influence and undermine the outcome.

Trump has publicly praised Vladimir Putin, and actively encouraged Russian hackers to gain access to and release Clinton's emails. He recently doubled down on his claims that the election is "rigged" and said that he would accept the results — if he won.

Officials for Oklahoma and Louisiana noted to BuzzFeed News that the date on the letter from the Russian Consulate General was incorrect as they received the letter in August, not September.

Officials for all three states said they rejected the request, but for different reasons. The rejections were picked up by Izvestia daily, a Kremlin-friendly news outlet, and later by RT, which is owned by the Kremlin.

Of course, Russia has it's own history of harassment and intimidation of election monitors.

In his response to Alexander Zakharov, Russia's Consul General in Houston, Oklahoma Secretary of State Chris Benge wrote that state law did not allow anyone other than voters, election officials, and members of the press to be present at a polling place.

While state law does allow candidates and recognized parties to designate "watchers," they are not allowed in the polling place while voting is underway, Bryan Dean, the Oklahoma State Election Board spokesman, told BuzzFeed News Friday.

"I hope that you are able to view the televised election process on November 8, 2016, as citizens of the United States select the country's next president," Benge said in his letter provided to BuzzFeed News. "It is truly an amazing system."

Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler rejected Russia's request, saying that recent flooding had damaged the Baton Rouge area and left him short-staffed.

Jonathan Drake / Reuters

"Had this flood event not occurred, we certainly would have been open to such a visit, but I cannot meet such a request with the situation I currently have in front of me," Schedler wrote in his response, provided to BuzzFeed News. "I hope you take this in the spirit for which it is intended but I would ask that you please contact me in 2020 if you still are desirous to visit a precinct in a Presidential Election."

Meg Casper, Schedler's spokesperson, told BuzzFeed News that "processing foreign election observer requests during a Presidential Elections is not unusual for Louisiana or any state in the country."

Texas Secretary of State Carlos Cascos was more blunt in turning down Zakharov's request, saying unauthorized persons inside a polling station during voting would be committing a crime by entering.

"Please note that only persons authorized by law may be inside of a polling location during voting. All other persons are not authorized and would be committing a class C misdemeanor crime by entering," Cascos wrote in his letter provided to BuzzFeed News.

Tasneem Nashrulla is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Tasneem Nashrulla at tasneem.nashrulla@buzzfeed.com.

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