Belarus, Sudan, Guyana, Tunisia and Liberia are the last countries with which the Carter Center, the human rights advocacy agency created in 1982 by former United States President Jimmy Carter, has worked this year to promote democracy and ensure for the quality of its electoral processes. Its experts have supervised 110 elections in 39 countries in recent decades in Africa, Latin America and Asia. The list has just been expanded. For the first time in its history, the elections they will monitor with a magnifying glass will not be held in a distant country but in their own, in the United States.
“Although the US has not lived up to international electoral standards on key issues for a long time, it would not have been until about 10 years ago that we would have concluded that the quality of its democracy and elections was going backwards,” says the center based in Atlanta, which this week announced an initiative to “strengthen transparency and confidence in elections” in its country.
“Given the scale of the problems today – deep polarization, lack of confidence in elections, obstacles to minority group participation and other racial injustices, in addition to the Covid-19 pandemic, we have decided that the center would try to improve the elections at home, taking advantage of its experience in observing difficult elections and its knowledge about international standards,” explains its CEO, Paige Alexander.
The center’s decision is an extraordinary recognition of the problems that the electoral system suffers from, in reality, a patchwork of state laws, potentially exacerbated this year by the pandemic, the increase in voting by mail, the possibility of very close results in several states and the accusations of fraud that Democrats and Republicans do not stop launching.
The problems with the US elections come from behind but their quality is in decline, according to the Carter Center
If the former accuse the conservatives and the White House of trying to suppress by hindering the work of the Postal Service and old schemes such as closing schools or purging voters, they accuse them of bloating the census. The president’s attitude has been more typical of countries like ones traditionally overseen by the Carter Center. Without evidence and every day for a different reason, Trump presents the vote by mail as fraudulent, although he will turn to it in November, as he has done in recent years, and has admitted that he does not want to bail out the Postal Service because it can benefit Democrats.
“I can only lose if the elections are rigged,” says Trump, who refuses to say
that he will accept the result in the event of defeat. A growing number of voters, both Democrats and Republicans, have doubts about the cleanliness of the process.
“Joe Biden should not grant defeat under any circumstances,” Hillary Clinton has advised him. “I think it is going to take a long time and, in the end, we will win if we do not give up an inch and if we remain as firm as the other party.” Lawyers from both sides are already prepared for a 2000-like battle in Florida, resolved by the Supreme Court in December against a new recount and in favour of George W. Bush.
The Carter Center plans to launch information campaigns and work with officials in charge of the process to “ensure maximum transparency and access to observers” from both parties and outsiders and does not rule out organizing actual observation missions in certain states. In May, the 94-year-old Carter called on the federal government and state authorities to expand the options for voting by mail and to dedicate funds to ensure that it takes place safely to protect “the core of American democracy, the right to vote”.
The increase in vote-by-mail may lead to no results on election night this year
Some Republicans fear that Trump’s attacks on vote-by-mail will end up hurting them. Less than 20% of Trump supporters plan to use it, compared to 60% of those who support Biden, according to the Pew Research Center. To avoid problems (65,000 primary votes were rejected for being late, enough to decide the electoral result), the Democrats have changed their message and now encourage everyone who can go to polls personally. “We will have to put on comfortable shoes and a mask, grab a bag with dinner and maybe breakfast as well because we have to be willing to stand in line all night if necessary,” says Michelle Obama.