Supporting international democracy: MMU staff traveled to Ukraine

As the state of Iowa puts a cap on the primaries of last week, Director of International Recruiting and Integration Catharine Cashner settles back into her office at Mount Mercy after serving as a short-term observer for the early presidential elections in Ukraine.

As an international volunteer through the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR), Cashner joined a team of 900 short-term observers from 40 countries. Their goal was to visit polling places to gather information on procedures including counting and tabulation. Their results were then reported back to the OSCE/ODIHR—an entity striving to assist governments in developing democratic societies—to help draw conclusions about the election process.

Cashner and around 90 other U.S. volunteers arrived in Ukraine several days prior to the presidential election for a comprehensive rundown of their roles and responsibilities during service. Teams then traveled to approximately ten polling stations on election day and formally logged observances for interpretation by a core group.

“We all met in the capital of Kiev for our briefing,” said Cashner. “Then my group took a train to Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine. Kharkiv is a city of about 1.5 million people, a major industrial and educational center, and the former capital.”

The presence of international short-term observers during Ukraine’s early presidential election was meant to help foster trust in the country’s newer democracy and to identify irregularities, if they occurred, which could then be remedied in future elections.

“I learned a lot about Ukraine and its history,” Cashner reflected on her journey. “This is my fourth time as a short-term observer, so I’m familiar with the observations process, and definitely hope to observe future elections.”

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