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I come to the subject of international election observation as something of a penitent. For a long time, I was a spotty voter. I took the right to vote and the assurance of a free and fair election for granted. I was not alone. In the United States, in many elections, less than half of our potential electorate exercises its right to vote. I would like to believe that my dereliction from this important civic privilege had justifications and aggravations. As a student and then young professor of international law, I moved often. In my personal economy of priorities, I frequently neglected to register in time to vote. And I confess that as a student of politics and a product of American Legal Realism, I was also infected with a certain amount of cynicism about the relevance of elections to the actual exercise of power.

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