I suppose Jimmy Carter didn’t stop to consider how his opinion piece in today’s Washinton Post might strike an opposition-minded Venezuelans – why should he? – but from our point of view, it’s hard to shake the feeling he’s mocking us. The very least one can say is that his standard for what is ok in Tallahasee is not precisely his standard for what is ok in Plaza Caracas. But what’s really remarkable about this deeply upsetting bit of gringocentric punditry is how similar his complaints are, in content and tone, to what the Coordinadora Democrática has been saying about CNE for over a year now…
Still Seeking a Fair Florida Vote
By Jimmy Carter
Monday, September 27, 2004; Page A19
After the debacle in Florida four years ago, former president Gerald Ford and I were asked to lead a blue-ribbon commission to recommend changes in the American electoral process. After months of concerted effort by a dedicated and bipartisan group of experts, we presented unanimous recommendations to the president and Congress. The government responded with the Help America Vote Act of October 2002. Unfortunately, however, many of the act’s key provisions have not been implemented because of inadequate funding or political disputes.
The Carter Center has monitored more than 50 elections, all of them held under contentious, troubled or dangerous conditions. When I describe these activities, either in the United States or in foreign forums, the almost inevitable questions are: “Why don’t you observe the election in Florida?” and “How do you explain the serious problems with elections there?”
The answer to the first question is that we can monitor only about five elections each year, and meeting crucial needs in other nations is our top priority. (Our most recent ones were in Venezuela and Indonesia, and the next will be in Mozambique.) A partial answer to the other question is that some basic international requirements for a fair election are missing in Florida.
The most significant of these requirements are:
- A nonpartisan electoral commission or a trusted and nonpartisan official who will be responsible for organizing and conducting the electoral process before, during and after the actual voting takes place. Although rarely perfect in their objectivity, such top administrators are at least subject to public scrutiny and responsible for the integrity of their decisions. Florida voting officials have proved to be highly partisan, brazenly violating a basic need for an unbiased and universally trusted authority to manage all elements of the electoral process.