Dozens of trips to monitor elections abroad have left former President Jimmy Carter hopeful about the future of many countries adopting democracy but concerned about the election process in the U.S. Carter spoke with The Associated Press on Thursday in Atlanta ahead of a May trip to Guyana that will mark the Carter Center’s 100th mission and his own 39th observation trip. The program is a large part of what Carter once called his “second life” since forming the human rights organization in 1982 after leaving the White House. The milestone represents “an opportunity to contribute to democracy and freedom,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any doubt that the work that the Carter Center has done in monitoring elections has encouraged people to have more honest elections.”
Carter, who turned 90 in October, said in the U.S. varying election procedures by state and county, the booming cost of running for federal office and permitted secrecy about donors wouldn’t meet the Carter Center’s standards. Money plays too important a role, he said.
“One of the requirements we have is that all the candidates who are qualified to run legally have a chance to run financially … our elections are financed so highly by rich people that no one can hope to be a Democratic or a Republican nominee without being able to raise say $200 million or more from special interests who want to be rewarded once the candidate is in office,” Carter said.