Supporting Free and Fair Elections

USAID supports credible and democratic elections and political processes.


Elections and other political processes are pivotal to the quality of a country’s governance. Elections can either greatly advance or set back a country’s long-term democratic development, as well as U.S. foreign policy priorities.

The most fundamental principle defining credible elections is that they must reflect the free expression of the will of the people.

To achieve this, elections should be transparent, inclusive, and trusted by voters and those elected. There must be equitable opportunities to compete in the elections and genuine political competition. These broad principles are enshrined in key obligations, rights, and freedoms which derive from public international law.

USAID’s electoral assistance is based on the electoral cycle approach, which depicts elections as a continuous, integrated process made up of building blocks that interact with each other, rather than as a series of isolated events. In designing and prioritizing its support for credible elections, USAID takes into account the degree to which the host country upholds democratic principles and standards for elections. The Agency also analyzes the country’s political dynamics and assesses the key electoral stakeholders’ level of commitment and capacities in order to promote electoral integrity.

USAID supports democratic elections and political processes around the world through a wide range of programming, including strengthening election management bodies and political parties, supporting electoral reform and election observation, enhancing voter education, promoting a more resilient information environment, mitigating electoral violence, and bolstering electoral justice. USAID’s electoral assistance programming emphasizes addressing barriers to the political and electoral participation of women, youth, and other marginalized populations. Below are some examples of USAID support to elections and political processes:

  • Ecuador: For Ecuador’s 2023 snap elections - the first in the country’s history - USAID quickly mobilized cybersecurity support for the electoral management body, an independent citizen observation led by a local civil society organization, a voter education campaign, and journalists to provide unbiased and real-time reporting on the elections. Due to the unexpected and rapid nature of these elections, ballot kits were unable to be physically delivered in a timely manner to Ecuadorian consulates overseas so USAID supported the move to full electronic voting for Ecuadorians overseas, a first for Ecuador.
  • Georgia: For Georgia’s 2020 parliamentary elections, USAID’s programming helped promote conditions for greater pluralism and representation of the electorate. USAID supported partners to build political party capacity to better engage with constituents; fostered citizen participation in holding parties accountable for the quality of their representation; supported election observation; and enhanced the participation of women, youth, and minorities in electoral and political processes.
  • Kenya: For Kenya’s 2022 electoral cycle, USAID supported diverse consortia of local civil society partners to: conduct a domestic observation effort (including a parallel vote tabulation); develop community-led electoral violence mitigation responses; support the electoral management body to increase its transparency and accountability and the judiciary to conduct timely election dispute resolution; provide civic and voter education; and support the inclusion of women, youth and marginalized groups in electoral and political processes. USAID also supported an international observation mission.
  • Nepal: For Nepal’s 2022 electoral cycle, which included elections in May and in November, USAID and its partners helped strengthen the Election Commission of Nepal; improve the electoral legal framework; advance the participation of women, youth, persons with disabilities and LGBTQI+; build political party capacity to develop policies and conduct effective campaigns; engage citizens and politicians on issue-based voting and political accountability; promote nonpartisan citizen election monitoring; and monitor election-related disinformation, particularly gender-based disinformation.
  • Iraq: In preparation for Iraq’s 2021 early parliamentary elections, USAID’s partners provided technical assistance to Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission at both the national and governorate level. USAID also supported Iraqi civil society organizations to expose and counter electoral disinformation, improve citizens’ understanding of the electoral process, and foster greater civic engagement, particularly among women, youth, internally displaced persons and other vulnerable communities.

USAID’s Bureau for Democracy, Governance, and Human Rights’ (DRG) Elections and Political Processes (EPP) office provides technical leadership and support on elections and political processes and democratic political transitions to USAID field Missions and Washington bureaus, other USG entities, and the broader DRG community. This includes technical guidance, pre-election and election security assessments, strategy development, program design and evaluation assistance, training, flexible and timely funding, access to long-term and rapid/flexible response implementing mechanisms, and policy support.

Key USAID Resources

Sector Overview