Carter Helps Monitor Nicaragua Presidential Election

NPR – All Things Considered
By Debbie Elliot

DE: Mr. President, one final question, if you will. Here in the U.S., we have a very hotly contested election on Tuesday that could change the balance of power in the Congress. Voters across the country are concerned here about the voting process. Some have expressed concerns about voting machines and whether they will be working, others have accused officials of trying to intimidate certain groups of voters. Is there a need for a poll watching system of outside observers at U.S. elections?

JC: As you may know after the 2000 election which was a total debacle, President Gerald Ford and I headed a major blue ribbon commission and recommended changes in the voting procedures that largely were passed by the Congress. And then, after the 2004 election, which still showed some major problems, former secretary of state James Baker and I headed a similar commission and made some recommendations, very few of which have yet been implemented.

But there’s no doubt in my mind that the United States electoral system is severely troubled and has many faults in it. It would not qualify at all for instance for participation by the Carter Center in observing. We require for instance that there be uniform voting procedures throughout an entire nation. In the United States you’ve got not only fragmented from one state to another but also from one county to another. There is no central election commission in the United States that can make final judgment. It’s a cacophony of voices that come in after the election is over with, thousands or hundreds of lawyers contending with each other. There’s no uniformity in the nation at all. There’s no doubt that that there’s severe discrimination against poor people because of the quality of voting procedures presented to them.

Another thing in the United States that we wouldn’t permit in a country other than the United States is that we require that every candidate in a country in which we monitor the elections have equal access to the major news media, regardless of how much money they have. In the United States, as you know, it’s how much advertising you can by on television and radio. And so the richest candidates prevail, and unless a candidate can raise sometimes hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars, they can’t even hope to mount a campaign, so the United States has a very inadequate election procedure.

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