Oklahoma rejects Russian request to monitor election in state
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An early morning voter walks into St. Lukes United Methodist Church to cast their vote in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma March 1, 2016. REUTERS/Nick Oxford/File Photo
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By Jon Herskovitz
(Reuters) - Oklahoma voting officials have denied a request from the Russian consulate in Houston to monitor the Nov. 8 general elections in the state, saying foreign delegates are not allowed into polling stations, an official said on Friday.
The move comes as the U.S. government this month formally accused Russia of a campaign of cyber attacks against Democratic Party organizations to interfere with the U.S. election process.
The consul general made similar requests to officials in Texas and Louisiana, local news reports said, and was rebuffed in both states. The Consulate General of the Russian Federation in Houston was not immediately available for comment.
The consulate asked to have personnel in Oklahoma to study the Nov. 8 presidential election and was told that state law forbids anyone other than election officials and voters into areas where votes are being cast, said Bryan Dean, spokesman for the Oklahoma State Election Board.
In a letter provided by Oklahoma, Russian Consul General Alexander Zakharov asks to have a consulate officer "at one of the ballot stations of Oklahoma with the goal of studying the U.S. experience in organization of (the) voting process."
Oklahoma Secretary of State Chris Benge said he hopes the Russian officials can watch the U.S. election process on TV.
"It is truly an amazing system," he wrote back in a letter provided by the state.
U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby told a news briefing that individual states maintain the authority to approve or deny requests from parties to observe elections.
When asked if it was a worry to have the Russian request coming on the heels of the U.S. accusations of the country trying to meddle in the vote, he replied: "We don’t have anything to hide … and we’re confident in the electoral system.”
U.S. intelligence officials have concluded that the Russian government was conducting or orchestrating cyber attacks against the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, possibly to disrupt or discredit the election, in which Democrat Hillary Clinton faces Republican Donald Trump.
A Kremlin spokesman has called the U.S. allegations "nonsense," the Interfax news agency reported.
(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas; Additional reporting by David Alexander in Washington; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)
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