Since 1989, The Carter Center has observed 103 elections in 39 countries (listed below). Missions are undertaken only upon the invitation or consent of all major parties to an election.
Observers bring a reputation for impartiality, and their presence helps to reassure voters that they can safely and secretly cast their ballots. As the eyes and ears of the international community, observers also help deter fraud. Carter Center observation projects generally begin well in advance of elections. Observer teams are often in a country to assess registration exercises and political campaigns. During elections, the observers monitor voting and counting and remain after the ballots have been counted to monitor vote tabulation.
Before an election, Carter Center observers meet with election officials and party leaders to discuss electoral procedures. Sometimes they mediate election disputes and help all sides to agree on election rules. During this phase, assessments are made of the voter registration process, voter education efforts, and the fairness of the campaign "field of play."
On election day, observers are dispatched with systematic survey forms to urban and rural areas to witness preparations at poll openings, voting, and vote counting to try to determine whether the vote was secret and fair at the sites they visited. In addition to talking with polling site officials and party witnesses, observers talk with citizens and note any complaints.
After polls close, delegates observe the counting of votes and the delivery of ballot boxes. Then, the entire delegation meets to discuss its observations and issue a statement of findings as a group. If necessary, qualified high-level observers can serve as mediators to facilitate the peaceful transfer of power.
Once election results are confirmed, The Carter Center sometimes remains engaged in a country through the inauguration of a new president and beyond, particularly in countries where the Center has had or anticipates a long-term involvement. Post-election activities to strengthen people's confidence in their democratic institutions can take many forms, and in the past, have included projects to protect and promote human rights, build civil society, refine the democratic electoral process, and address economic or development issues.
Updated September 2016
*These missions were targeted or focused observations and did not result in statements on the overall administration of the electoral process.
Please sign up below for important news about the work of The Carter Center and special event invitations.