A scene from an election polling site shows people waiting in line and a poll watcher carrying a clipboard.

A poll watcher from the Carter Center during the Macon-Bibb County presidential election audit in November of 2020.

Credit: Grant Blankenship / GPB Photo

The Carter Center has long been known for its work fostering democracy overseas. But two years ago, it turned its attention to the United States.

In 2020, the Center's Democracy Program supported U.S. elections by providing objective information about the election process, promoting good practices in transparency, and partnering with grassroots organizations to disseminate messages around a peaceful electoral transition.

Now it’s launching the Georgia Democracy Resilience Network, a program aimed at getting people in Jimmy Carter’s home state to avoid conflict and gain confidence in elections.

The program’s co-lead, veteran Republican strategist Leo Smith, says it’s less about election monitoring and more about events and discussions with a wide range of Georgians.

“We’re talking about not the machinations of elections,” Smith said. “But we’re talking about the normative expectations of rhetoric and physical behaviors when we’re engaging in civic and political action.”

In other words, the network will focus on how voters behave before, during and after they cast their ballots in the November 2022 election. 

The program launched on Wednesday with a webinar that gathered Georgia faith leaders.

Future events will bring together civic and business leaders and others to serve as advocates for peaceful political engagement around elections, Smith said.

The program’s other co-lead, Rashad Richey, is a Democratic strategist, broadcaster and national political analyst.

He said the network will ask candidates and citizens to uphold basic civic standards.

“Bridging divisions and working together is the most American thing there is,” Richey said. “This country has supported elections for two centuries, and the network is part of that tradition.”

The Carter Center has similar programs in other battleground states as the contentious midterm elections approach — with the memory of Jan. 6, 2021, not far behind.