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Greens Welcome International Scrutiny of Elections

For Immediate Release:
September 11th, 2004

Green Party Welcomes International Scrutiny of Elections
Democracy Experts Begin Monitoring of U.S. Elections in Georgia

Election Observers to Hold a Community Forum in Atlanta

Electoral experts from around the world are in Georgia this week as part of an unprecedented international monitoring of the U.S. elections. The election monitoring team is traversing the state to investigate issues that may be undermining confidence in the integrity of the U.S. electoral system.

"We welcome this international scrutiny of Georgia elections," said Hugh Esco, political coordinator for the Georgia Green Party and Chair of the Voter Choice Coalition. "While the Democrats blame our participation in the process for 'spoiling' the elections, in fact our elections are spoiled by the undemocratic Election Code enacted by Georgia Democrats in the Assembly. We suggest that on a full examination, Mr. Carter's home state will be found wanting in several areas."

During the election observers' time in Georgia, the team will hold a community forum in Atlanta to give local residents a chance to share their opinions about issues surrounding American democracy. The forum will start at 7:00 pm, on Monday, September 20th in the Judiciary Hearing Room, #132 in the basement of the State Capitol.

The goal of the independent, non-governmental international monitoring of the U.S. elections is to boost voter confidence and participation in this year's elections. Experience in dozens of countries around the world has shown that the presence of outside observers can make a valuable contribution toward building trust in democratic processes and helping ensure fair elections.

While in Georgia, the international election observers will meet with county voting registrars, talk with community organizations, observe voter registration drives, hold conversations with a range of advocacy organizations, and participate in town hall meetings to get a full picture of Georgians' views about democracy in America.

The independent, non-partisan, and non-governmental international monitoring of the U.S. elections is occurring in two phases. The September pre-electoral delegation is investigating a range of issues and then, in October, will release a report detailing its findings and offering recommendations, if any, for reform. A second team will be in the U.S. in the days surrounding the November 2 election.

The four-person monitoring team traveling to Georgia is part of a larger 20- person delegation. The entire delegation first spent four days in Washington, DC meeting with government officials, policy analysts, advocacy organizations, and academics to get an overview of electoral controversies in the U.S. The delegation then split into five groups to conduct further investigations in Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Missouri, and Ohio.

The election monitors are coming to the U.S. at the invitation of Fair Election International, a project of the human rights group Global Exchange, which has conducted election monitoring in 10 countries around the world.

The election monitors come from a range of professional and political backgrounds. All of are well known and highly regarded within their own countries. The monitoring team in Georgia includes:

+ Australian John Cameron, an attorney who has been instrumental in defending the rights of his country's Aboriginal population;

+ Argentine Luis Tonelli, a political science professor at the University of Buenos Aires and a member of the advisory council of Poder Cuidadano (Citizen Power), Argentina's largest democracy watchdog organization;

+ Zambian Elijah Rubvuta, Executive Director of the Foundation for Democratic Process in Zambia, which is a leading organization involved in election monitoring, governance and electoral reforms advocacy work. Mr. Rubvuta participated in the Carter Center's observation of elections in South Africa and Zambia;

+ Irishwoman Victoria Sommers, who has observed elections in South Africa, Bosnia, Tanzania, Kosovo and Sri Lanka on behalf of the Irish Government, United Nations and European Union.

In the spirit of open inquiry, the monitors are welcome to investigate any issue that attracts their attention. At the same time, U.S. organizers of the monitoring effort are highlighting three subjects that feed controversy about the integrity of the upcoming elections:

+ Evidence that minority and poor voters are disproportionately disenfranchised;

+ Deep disagreements over the security of millions of votes recorded on computer voting machines; and

+ Concerns about the consequences of corporate and personal wealth in political contests.

"In Georgia, wealthy contributors, not voters determine who viable candidates are," said Esco. "Incumbents choose their voters before voters get to choose their elected representives. Voters are denied a ballot which lists their candidates of choice. Our votes are tabulated with no public scrutiny or means of auditing that the certified results actually represents the will of the voters. And winners are chosen in ways that disenfranchise large minorities and sometimes even majorities of the population."

To arrange an interview with any of the election monitors or to set up a time to shadow them during their investigations, please contact Shonna Carter at 212-260-5000.

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