The democracy promotion organization founded by former President Jimmy Carter will monitor US elections for the first time during this year’s midterm elections.
The Carter Center has monitored more than 110 elections in the Middle East, Africa, Latin America, and Asia since 1989 as part of efforts to promote democracy around the world. But he never carried out similar operations in the United States.
This year, however, it will send monitors to three states — Georgia, Michigan and Arizona — each with a different mission, but with the overall goal of building confidence in the integrity of the voting process.
David Carroll, director of the center’s democracy program, said The Independent that this decision “represents a recognition that threats to democratic institutions and norms are greater in the United States than in a number of other countries around the world.”
“And that deserves special attention and prioritization by groups like ours who work to advance respect for democracy and democratic principles,” he added.
The unprecedented decision to observe elections in the United States comes amid a crisis of confidence in the democratic process across the country. The Republican Party, nominally led by Donald Trump, is now dominated by candidates who promote baseless conspiracy theories about voter fraud, including some who have threatened to only accept the results of the elections they win. According to a recent surveysome 28% of all voters, including 41% Republicans, said they had little or no confidence in the accuracy of this year’s midterm elections.
Because US states each have their own election laws, The Carter Center’s oversight activities will be different in each state. Arizona, for example, has no legal provision for the presence of nonpartisan election observers at polling sites on Election Day. The center’s activities will include observing pre-testing of ballot counting machines, monitoring live feeds of ballot box activity and observing other parts of the process that are open to the public.
In Michigan, they will partner with two organizations that focus on disability rights and observe Election Day on a limited scale. And in Georgia, the center will monitor Fulton County based on an agreement with the county and the Secretary of State’s office.
Mr. Carroll said The Carter Center’s mid-term work is different from its usual overall in-country missions and was more of a “piloting of different types of activities in different states depending on the context and what is possible”.
In 2020, The Independent reported on the Carter Center’s first-ever election initiative in the United States – an initiative that fell short of the kind of oversight activity it is known for around the world. This effort involved raising awareness and observing the post-election ballot audit in Georgia. This year’s efforts represent a significantly increased engagement in the U.S. election process, but with a similar goal of addressing the “lack of public confidence in the accuracy and administration of elections,” Carroll said.
“I’m under no illusions that what we’re doing is necessarily going to, in and of itself, change the calculus of how our elections are understood, but I think we can be part of a bigger picture, involving a range of different types of activity by many groups, to try to help people better understand what’s going on during the election,” Mr. Carroll said.
The Carter Center is a nonprofit organization founded in 1982 by Jimmy Carter – who served as president from 1977 to 1981 – and his wife Rosalynn. Its website says it seeks “to prevent and resolve conflict, strengthen freedom and democracy, and improve health.” He works around the world to promote democracy by monitoring elections and educating about election integrity.
President Carter was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 “for his decades of tireless efforts to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development — much of which was achieved through his work with the center.