Carter Center brings voter protection efforts to US
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.”
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.