Carter Cen­ter brings voter pro­tec­tion ef­forts to US

The Beaufort Gazette (Sunday) - - Front Page - BY ERNIE SUGGS Cox News­pa­pers

David Car­roll has been work­ing with the Carter Cen­ter ob­serv­ing and mon­i­tor­ing elec­tions in Third World coun­tries for 30 years.

In each of the 111 ob­ser­va­tions in 39 coun­tries, a few things con­sis­tently stick out.

Deep ide­o­log­i­cal po­lar­iza­tion. Eth­nic and racial di­vi­sions. Lit­tle con­fi­dence in elec­tion in­tegrity. Re­sults not ac­cepted.

Sounds like Amer­ica, 2020.

As the coun­try bar­rels to­ward one of the most con­tentious elec­tions in Amer­i­can his­tory, al­ready drip­ping with ten­sion about the whole vot­ing process, the At­lanta-based Carter Cen­ter is tak­ing the un­prece­dented step to get in­volved in U.S. elec­tions.

“The char­ac­ter­is­tics of pol­i­tics on this coun­try are not un­like what we see in other coun­tries,” Car­roll said. “Those are the types of things we see in coun­tries where democ­racy is re­ally strug­gling.”

At this late date, with the United States be­ing a patch­work of about 10,000 in­di­vid­ual ju­ris­dic­tions across 50 states with no cen­tral­ized elec­tion ad­min­is­tra­tion, it would be al­most im­pos­si­ble for the Carter Cen­ter to mon­i­tor elec­tions here. There also would be per­cep­tions of bias be­cause it was founded by a for­mer Demo­cratic Party pres­i­dent.

The Carter Cen­ter is in dis­cus­sion with some states, in­clud­ing Ge­or­gia, about small-scale, tar­geted ob­ser­va­tion ef­forts on spe­cific as­pects of the process, but stop­ping short of full-fledged mon­i­tor­ing.

The Carter Cen­ter also will im­ple­ment a pub­lic in­for­ma­tion cam­paign to en­hance pub­lic knowl­edge and build con­fi­dence in the Amer­i­can elec­tion process.

“We are fo­cus­ing on trust and trans­parency, how to in­crease un­der­stand­ing of the elec­tion, how the elec­tion process is work­ing and how the ab­sen­tee process is work­ing,” Car­roll said. “All with the idea of ad­dress­ing dis­trust and lack of con­fi­dence.”

The or­ga­ni­za­tion founded by for­mer Pres­i­dent Jimmy Carter has long been in­volved in elec­tions across Latin Amer­ica, the Mid­dle East and Africa. Cur­rently, teams are work­ing in Cote d’Ivoire, Myan­mar and Bo­livia.

“It is hard for the Carter Cen­ter, which has done hu­man re­la­tions work over­seas, not to look in our back­yard,” said Carter Cen­ter CEO Paige Alexan­der. “Some­thing that we have learned is that you en­sure good elec­tions by in­creas­ing pub­lic knowl­edge. We just need to bring that back home.”

The Carter Cen­ter is gen­er­ally in­vited to work in coun­tries that are ei­ther “poised to take a step for­ward or in dan­ger of tak­ing a step back­ward,” Car­roll said.

Car­roll said Amer­ica is on the brink of back­slid­ing, some­thing he could not have en­vi­sioned when the Carter Cen­ter’s pro­gram started.

“Un­til the last five or 10 years – though the U.S. was far from per­fect – it didn’t fit that cat­e­gory,” Car­roll said. “I started to get more con­cerned about po­lar­iza­tion, es­pe­cially over the last four or five years. Noth­ing that can com­pare to what we are see­ing in my ex­pe­ri­ence in the United States.”

DEB­O­RAH HAKES Carter Cen­ter

For­mer Pres­i­dent Jimmy Carter talks to vot­ers in Juba, South­ern Su­dan, on Jan. 9, 2011, dur­ing a his­toric ref­er­en­dum on se­ces­sion ob­served by The Carter Cen­ter. Sev­eral mil­lion South­ern Su­danese voted nearly unan­i­mously for sep­a­ra­tion from Su­dan, re­sult­ing in the for­ma­tion of South Su­dan as an in­de­pen­dent na­tion. The Carter Cen­ter ob­served the en­tirety of the ref­er­en­dum process, be­gin­ning in Au­gust 2010 and con­tin­u­ing through the con­clu­sion of polling, count­ing, and tab­u­la­tion of votes.

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