by Chris Shattuck | September 17, 2012
When Hugo Chavez won Venezuela's election in 2006, not everyone was happy about the results.
Still, former President Jimmy Carter said at the Carter Center Sept. 11, the controversial leader won "fairly and squarely."
He steered clear of Mr. Chavez's political views, but Mr. Carter praised the South American country for a touch-screen voting system that both stores votes electronically and via paper ballots, allowing easier verification of the election results.
"As a matter of fact, of the 92 elections that we've monitored, I would say the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world," Mr. Carter said, noting the center's extensive work monitoring elections around the globe.
Responding to a question during the kickoff of the annual Conversations at the Carter Center series, Mr. Carter also pointed out that elections in Latin America as a whole have improved significantly over the past few decades.
For example, he said Mexico only recently held its first "honest" election, which the Carter Center was allowed to monitor last month.
However, while candidates in Mexico and nearly every other Latin American country depend on public money to finance campaigns, the U.S. has seen an influx of "financial corruption" following court rulings that have eased the flow of private money into candidates' coffers, he said.
"Every other country has public financing of all the elections process," he said. "If you qualify to run for office, you get public financing and outside money does not affect the outcome of the election."
Although public financing remains is an option for U.S. candidates, nominees from both major political parties have opted to raise more funds through private donations.
Mr. Carter called for the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse its 2010 ruling in the landmark case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, in which the court agreed it was unconstitutional for the government to restrict anonymous donations to third-party political groups.
"We have one of the worst election processes in the world, and it's almost entirely because of the excessive influx of money," Mr. Carter said.
Campaign finance was among the many topics discussed as the former president answered online questions and engaged with a live audience in Atlanta.
He touched on the center's peace and health efforts, including the fight against Guinea worm, a parasitic disease afflicting parts of Africa.
Through a massive education effort, the Carter Center has helped many countries halt transmission. Mr. Carter said eradication of the last few hundred cases, mostly in Sudan, would be one of his crowning achievements if it takes place as expected in the next few years.