Carter Center, pushing for fair elections, turns focus to US

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In this image from video, former President Jimmy Carter and former first lady Rosalynn Carter, seen in a photo as they speak on audio only, during the second night of the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. (Democratic National Convention via AP)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Carter Center, an organization founded by former President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, has worked for decades to ensure fair elections in Africa, Latin America and Asia.

It’s now turning its focus to the United States.

The Atlanta-based center said Friday that it has launched an initiative meant to strengthen and build confidence in the U.S. election system. It has observed over 110 elections in 39 countries since 1989 but now feels compelled to take on the problems at home, it says.

The center notes that while the U.S. has fallen short of some international election standards before, it’s only in the last decade that the center would describe the country’s democracy as “backsliding.”

Countries that are at risk of “backsliding” are “often characterized by polarization, a lack of public trust, ethnic or racial divisions and injustice, and fears that election results won’t be seen as credible or could trigger violence,” the Carter Center said in a statement.

“Given the scale of problems today – including deep polarization, lack of confidence in elections, obstacles to participation by minority groups and others, persistent racial injustice, and the COVID-19 pandemic – the Center has decided that it should try to improve elections here at home, drawing on its global experience observing troubled elections and its knowledge of international standards,” said Carter Center CEO Paige Alexander.

The Carter Center says its efforts will focus on two main initiatives: providing information to the public on key election issues and ensuring transparency in the election process through independent observers.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly said the 2020 election will be the most rigged election in U.S. history. Four years ago, Russia engaged in a wide-ranging effort to interfere in the 2020 election on Trump’s behalf through both the hacking of Democratic emails and a covert social media campaign aimed at sowing discord among U.S. voters.

The country’s counterintelligence chief, William Evanina, issued a warningearlier this month about the threat of foreign interference in the 2020 election, saying U.S. intelligence officials believe that Russia is using various methods to denigrate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and that people linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin are boosting Trump’s reelection bid.

U.S. officials also believe China does not want Trump, a Republican, to win a second term and has accelerated its criticism of the White House.

Jimmy Carter is the nation’s 39th president and, at 95, the country’s oldest living president. He was a one-term Democratic president who served from 1976 to 1981.

He and Rosalynn Carter founded the Carter Center in 1982.

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