May 19, 2017
The Iranian regime is believed to be operating polling stations across the United States ahead of the country’s election on Friday, an effort that appears to violate U.S. laws barring Iranian agents from operating on American soil in this manner, according to sources apprised of the situation.
There are nearly 50 such polling stations across the United States, including in major American cities such as New York City and Washington, D.C., according to a list of polling stations published online.
Iranian polling stations have already been shut down in Canada and calls are mounting for the Trump administration to take similar action, according to a White House petition created by Iranian dissident groups that call on President Donald Trump to "shut down illegal Iranian regime election sites in the U.S."
As Iran gears up to hold its presidential election on Friday—a process critics have described as corrupt—Iranian regime opponents are warning that the polling sites will be staffed by agents of the Islamic Republic. This may be a violation of U.S. laws barring regime officials from traveling across America without explicit permission from the State Department.
U.S. law prohibits agents of the Iranian regime from traveling 25 miles outside of New York City and Washington, D.C., without explicit permission from the government. Additionally, sanctions prohibit U.S. individuals from conducting business with representatives of the Iranian government.
A State Department official would not comment specifically on Iran’s efforts in America but told the Free Beacon there is generally no prohibition on foreign countries conducting voting activities in the United States.
"There is no general prohibition on voting activities conducted by foreign countries on behalf of their citizens in the United States," the official said. "Foreign governments establishing polling stations are expected to carry out election-related activities in the United States in a manner consistent with U.S. law and regulations, and with due respect for the sovereignty and public order of the United States."
Kenneth Timmerman, the pro-bono president of the Foundation for Democracy in Iran, told the Free Beacon that the Iranians held similar operations under the Obama presidency.
"They have gotten away with it in previous elections because the Obama administration actually instructed the FBI not to do anything about this," said Timmerman, who first raised the issue in an article published by Front Page Magazine. "This time, the only way they’d get away with it is if the Justice Department and the administration is asleep at the switch."
Timmerman delivered to the White House last week a letter informing the president of the situation, but has yet to hear back.
In order to man the stations, there will be "hundreds of actual paid agents of the Islamic regime operating throughout this country," Timmerman said, raising concerns about violations of U.S. laws barring such activity.
"Under the Iran sanctions regulations, it is illegal for a U.S. person to provide services, any kind of services to the government of Iran directly or through cutouts," Timmerman said.
Many of the polling places will be set up at universities and hotels, according to a comprehensive list of the polling stations.
U.S. authorities have the right to arrest any Iranian agents who will be on the ground running these polling stations, according to those petitioning the White House to shut down the sites.
"In an attempt to bolster its legitimacy, the Iranian regime has announced that it will open 56 polling places across the United States where Iranian citizens can vote, 17 of which have been identified," the dissidents write in their petition to the White House.
"We ask President Donald J. Trump to shut down these illegal election sites and take all appropriate legal action against those involved in renting, providing, manning or otherwise servicing these facilities under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) and other authorities," the petition states.
The Islamic Republic’s practice of banning candidates it deems acceptable has drawn criticism in the past from groups such as Human Rights Watch, which has said in 2016 its system was "damaging prospects for free and fair parliamentary elections."
President Hassan Rouhani, a so-called moderate, is expected to easily win a second term as the country’s leader. Results are likely to be announced over the weekend.