3 ways USAID promotes free, fair elections around the world

Two people putting paper ballots into ballot boxes (© Efrem Lukatsky/AP Images)
Voters cast ballots at a polling station during elections in Kiev, Ukraine, in April 2019. (© Efrem Lukatsky/AP Images)

Around the world, the U.S. Agency for International Development has helped lay the groundwork for transparent, peaceful and inclusive electoral processes, with an informed and active citizenry. Here are three examples of how USAID supported elections in 2019.

Ukraine: A more transparent system

In 2019, Ukraine continued to experience dynamic changes. This included the election of a new president by an overwhelming majority and a new Parliament — 80 percent of whom are first-time legislators.

USAID worked closely with the international donor community to ensure election monitors were properly trained. USAID also provided support through the Central Election Committee to strengthen election administration and cybersecurity in the election process nationwide. At the end of the year, the newly elected Parliament approved an election law that includes many of the changes USAID has supported to make Ukraine’s election system stronger and more open.

Mauritania: Historic transfer of power

Hands holding pad of paper ballots (© Elhady Ould Mohamedou/AP Images)
An election official holds a pad of paper ballots at a polling station in Nouakchott, Mauritania, on June 22. (© Elhady Ould Mohamedou/AP Images)

Mauritanians went to the polls on June 22, 2019, to elect a new president, resulting in the country’s historic first democratic transition of power.

After five coups in the last 60 years, the 2019 presidential elections — the most competitive in Mauritanian history following the opposition boycott of the 2014 presidential poll — provided citizens with the opportunity to engage in the political process, most notably through youth participation in campaign rallies across the country.

USAID coordinated a youth-led civic education campaign and a voter mobilization drive. This included training 20 youth civil society leaders to develop strategic communications messages, design hashtags for social media campaigns, record voter mobilization voice messages for dissemination on WhatsApp, and facilitate live radio interviews on civic engagement during the election. Youth leaders also hosted six radio shows in the capital, Nouakchott, to promote voter mobilization.

Maldives: Increasing rule of law

Two women in headscarves holding up index fingers with vertical mark on fingernail (© Mohamed Sharuhaan/AP Images)
Maldivian women each show a finger marked with indelible ink after voting on September 23, 2018, in Malé, Maldives. (© Mohamed Sharuhaan/AP Images)

In September 2018, ahead of the presidential election in the Maldives, USAID invested $1 million to establish a network of 380 election observers, covering more than half the 472 ballot boxes.

The observed electoral issues were then presented to the Election Commission, which used the information to reduce voter fraud ahead of the May 2019 parliamentary election. The ruling party secured a supermajority after the election, which has led to an increase in rule of law and decentralization reforms, the establishment of the Maldives’ first Bar Council, and improved court monitoring by civil society.

A version of this article is available from USAID.