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Advancing Transparency, Building Trust

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Public trust in the electoral process is critical to ensuring participation and acceptance of election results. This is especially important when elections take place in challenging circumstances – such as a global pandemic – and when there are high levels of political polarization. From our experience observing over 110 elections in 39 countries, we know that public information and transparency – the ability of citizens to "see into" and understand the legal and administrative mechanics of the election – are key to bolstering trust in the process.

In 2020, The Carter Center is working to support elections at home by providing objective information and analysis about the election process and advancing good practices in transparency. The Center is also working to mitigate possible violence in cities in the days surrounding the election by partnering with grassroots organizations to offer conflict prevention training and disseminate messages supporting a peaceful electoral transition.


As our election system works to count every vote, it’s up to us to honor our country’s process and help others understand that accuracy takes time. Watch our video to learn more.

Watch the previous video in this series: Be Heard. Make History. Vote. »

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Ask an Expert: Jessie Pilgrim on Georgia Recounts
With the state of Georgia set to begin a recount of the Nov. 3 election, lawyer and election expert Jessie Pilgrim takes a look at the rules and regulation governing recounts in the state. Learn more about the four kinds of recounts in Georgia, the procedures for the kind that Georgia is now doing, and what options are still available to losing candidates if a recount confirms their loss.

Ask An Expert: Kevin Johnson on Postelection Audits
What’s the difference between a postelection audit, a canvass, a recount, and contesting election results? What are postelection audits designed to do? How, generally, do they work? A member of the Carter Center’s U.S. Election Expert Study Team has answers to all these questions and more.

Ask An Expert: Lia Merivaki on Provisional Ballots
Just what are provisional ballots? When do voters have to cast them? How do you know if your provisional ballot has been counted? Get the answers to these questions and more in this Q&A with one of the Carter Center’s U.S. Election Expert Study Team.

Georgia Last-Minute Voters Guide
Georgia voters: Have lingering questions about absentee or in-person voting? Need to know what to bring with you to the polls or what to do if you’re told you can’t vote? You’ll find answers to these questions and more in this guide.

Election Administration Datasets (PDF)
Good data on many aspects of election administration processes in the United States is available from a number of reputable sources. The Carter Center has curated a list of useful resources for anyone interested in exploring election data – including state- and county-level voter turnout on Election Day, mail-voting totals and rejection rates, and polling places across the United States.

Six Principles to Guide Us through the 2020 Election (PDF)
The 2020 election is being held in unusually challenging circumstances, and many Americans are feeling high levels of uncertainty about the process. Drawing on our long experience observing elections around the world, we’ve developed six key principles to help guide and provide reassurance to citizens, elected officials, and the media.

Tips for Transparency: How Local Election Officials Can Strengthen Voter Trust in Elections (PDF)
There's still time for local election officials to take meaningful steps to promote transparency in the mail-in balloting process. The Carter Center and the National Vote at Home Institute have prepared a short guide on transparency best practices to support election officials across the country as they work to prepare successful, high-confidence elections despite the challenges of 2020.

Who Can Observe U.S. Elections? (PDF)
Policies on election observers and poll watchers vary across the country. Together with the National Conference of State Legislatures, The Carter Center has prepared a report summarizing laws relevant to election observers and political party poll watchers for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. It addresses the role of observers and poll-watchers at each phase of the election, including before the election, during in-person voting and absentee ballot processing and counting, and post-election; special COVID-19-related accommodations or restrictions on observers and poll watchers; and regulations that ensure the orderly conduct of the election.

Ask the Expert: Lia Merivaki on Election Observation in the U.S. (PDF)
One of our experts takes a look at the various kinds of observers you may see at the polls on the Election Day. Learn more about their different goals, what parts of the process they can observe, and what rules and regulations are in place to help ensure that they can scrutinize our election processes but not subject voters or election workers to intimidation.

Hand Delivery of Absentee Ballots
States have different deadlines for the return of absentee ballots, and in most you can hand-deliver your ballot if you are worried about returning it by mail. To find out if, how, and when you can hand-deliver ballots, check out this helpful state-by-state guide put together by our partner, Election Reformers Network. Don’t miss your deadline!


Interested in being an election observer or poll watcher?

  • Election Protection
    Election Protection is a group led by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights under Law. It is a nonpartisan coalition to protect voters, ensuring that eligible voters are able to participate in our democracy. It has a nonpartisan poll monitoring program with remote and in-person opportunities.
  • Political Parties
    Contact the state political party of your choice to find out about opportunities to serve as a partisan poll watcher or challenger.
  • Paid Poll Worker
    Also, consider contacting your county’s board of elections to sign up for a paid poll worker position. The average poll worker typically falls in the high-risk age group for COVID-19, and so many polling stations may be short-staffed.

The Center is a proud supporter of the National Association of Secretaries of State #TrustedInfo2020 campaign and the Georgia Support the Vote Campaign.