Free and fair elections require:
-- Universal suffrage for all eligible men and women to vote -- democracies do not restrict this right from minorities, the disabled, or give it only to those who are literate or who own property
-- Freedom to register as a voter or run for public office.
-- Freedom of speech for candidates and political parties -- democracies do not restrict candidates or political parties from criticizing the performance of the incumbent.
-- Numerous opportunities for the electorate to receive objective information from a free press.
-- Freedom to assemble for political rallies and campaigns.
-- Rules that require party representatives to maintain a distance from polling places on election day -- election officials, volunteer poll workers, and international monitors may assist voters with the voting process but not the voting choice.
-- An impartial or balanced system of conducting elections and verifying election results -- trained election officials must either be politically independent or those overseeing elections should be representative of the parties in the election.
-- Accessible polling places, private voting space, secure ballot boxes, and transparent ballot counting.
-- Secret ballots -- voting by secret ballot ensures that an individual's choice of party or candidate cannot be used against him or her.
-- Legal prohibitions against election fraud -- enforceable laws must exist to prevent vote tampering (e.g. double counting, ghost voting).
-- Recount and contestation procedures -- legal mechanisms and processes to review election processes must be established to ensure that elections were conducted properly.
Many states could learn a lot from the State Department. Only 44% of Americans can claim that Free and Fair Elections are constitutionally protection by their state. It is ironic that the government Website from which the above information comes contains the following disclaimer:
"NOTE: The America.gov website is no longer being updated."
Even more ironic is the fact that when the Carter Center was once asked if they would monitor elections here they declined because we didn't meet the integrity standards they apply when considering third world country requests.