Elections officials from 6 African countries came to Gainesville today to kick off their tour of the American voting system. The Trans-Saharan Elections project is funded through a State Department grant, and University of Florida Political Science Professor Daniel Smith says there is a high interest in proper voting procedure, especially given the current uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East.
“These countries that we’re bringing participants from and that we will be traveling to all border those countries, and they are seeing what’s going on north of them, and the question is how Are they going to respond,” he says.
Smith says the State Department issued the grant to those who had plans relating specifically to these 6 African countries- Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal- but the guidelines were otherwise very flexible.
“This is one of the more unusual programs the US Department of State is providing. It’s essentially public diplomacy, but it’s not public diplomacy in terms of an American-centric ‘we know best how to run elections’ [way].”
The delegation will continue to Tallahassee and Washington D-C over the next three weeks, and the Alachua County hosts will then visit the African countries next year.