ECC Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) Phase-one Observation Report


The Elections Coordinating Committee (ECC), established in 2010, is Liberia’s largest domestic election observation network comprising seven Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) with diverse competencies, experiences, and expertise in democracy and governance work targeting different sectors of the population, including women, youth, traditional leaders, policymakers and the media. ECC deployed 43 trained observers across the six (6) counties[1], and 36 electoral districts to observe the conduct of the 2023 biometric voter registration exercise that took place from March 20 to April 9, 2023. The ECC also released a preliminary update and a press statement condemning violence and voter trucking. This report summarizes the findings and recommendations for the entire period of phase-one observation.

Overall, reports from ECC observers in all six counties and 36 electoral districts show that the process was generally well conducted for phase one. Observed registration centers generally opened on time, had the critical BVR equipment (a complete BVR Kit) present, and were accessible to persons with disabilities. The NEC registration teams generally followed registration procedures but unevenly required applicants to provide proof of eligibility. There were isolated instances of equipment failure, shortage in registration materials (card and ink), instances of voter trucking, and violence. This however, only affected a small number of centers observed by the ECC. ECC noted the low presence of security and party agents during phase one and encourage adequate coverage of the phase two process to enhance their confidence in the outcome of the BVR.


The National Elections Commission (NEC), in consultations with political parties made a policy decision in 2022 to transition from the traditional Optical Mark Recognition (OMR) system to Biometric Voter Registration (BVR). This is the first time the BVR is being used to conduct voter registration in Liberia, and if managed properly, it can improve the quality of the elections.

The 2023 biometric voter registration exercise is in two phases, with phase one lasting 21 days (three weeks) from March 20-April 9, 2023. The process was conducted from 8:00 pm to 5:00 pm daily, Mondays through Sundays, for the entire period. The NEC did not extend the registration, despite the calls to extend the process due to challenges experienced in phase one. However, on April 7, 2023, the NEC provided an extension in the time for the last two days of registration (April 8th & 9th) from 5 pm to 7 pm daily. All eligible Liberians in the phase one county were required during this period if they wanted to vote come October 10, 2023. A total of 1,065 registration centers were established within all six counties and 36 electoral districts for the BVR phase one, a decrease of 13 centers established in 2017 for the six counties.

Each registration center was staffed by a three-member team, comprising a registrar supervising the assigned registration center, a clerk responsible for data collection and entry for all eligible applicants using the computer, and a technician having technical knowledge of the biometric registration kit[2], responsible for immediately responding to any technical issue that may arise.

The registration procedures require all applicants to present themselves at the NEC registration centers and demonstrate their eligibility when registering. According to the NEC, Liberian citizens, age 18 years or older, who are of sound and not a convicted criminal, are eligible to register. Applicants were encouraged to register where they ordinarily reside (to prevent the “trucking” of registered voters between counties and electoral districts by politicians as means of influencing the outcome of the process). The NEC, however, did not provide a clear definition of what constitutes trucking, with no plan to follow up on instances of violations that were reported by observers’ groups, such as the ECC. The NEC also made provisions for preregistration online to collect the initial set of the applicant’s bio information before proceeding to the registration center for an interview, photo, and issuance of the final BVR card. This reduced the amount of time spent on registration. However, due to relatively low internet penetration in some rural areas, this option was only accessible to certain citizens and not others resulting in overcrowding at some centers.

ECC Observation & Deployment Methodology

The ECC trained and deployed 43 long-term observers for phase one-36 electoral district observers and seven county coordinators. ECC adopted both stationary and mobile observation methodologies to observe the BVR process:

Stationary Observation: ECC deployed its county coordinators and district observers as stationary observers for phase one. However, District observers were deployed at NEC-designated registration centers on six specified days and county coordinators at the magistrates’ offices for eight days. ECC district observers were trained to prioritize areas of concern about potential challenges related to voter registration in the selection of centers, such as border-region centers bordered with neighboring countries and run the risk of mass movement and the influx of persons from neighboring countries, which has spiked conflict in past elections (2020 SSE, Cape Mount & Gbarpolu) and urban Centers- located within cities because of their high population density and the youth bulge, prone to tension and easy accessibility by road, making them targets/attractions for the trucking of voters. Throughout the stationary observation, ECC observers completed a comprehensive observer checklist and sent in reports via coded text messages to the ECC’s Data Center.

 Mobile Observation  : On non-stationary days, all ECC county coordinators and electoral district observers were mobile within their respective districts and counties, reporting any observed critical incidents. Critical incident reports submitted to the ECC Data Center were immediately verified and confirmed by trained Data Clerks. Observers’ reports are transmitted to the ECC reporting system using their mobile phones through coded texts and are later analyzed to produce updates and statements.

Observation Findings

Overall, the ECC received a total of 216 reports on the conduct of voter registration for phase one from its district observers deployed at voter registration centers with reports received from all 36 electoral districts included in the phase one counties. It also contains updates on the observation at NEC magistrates’ offices and critical incident reports received during the entire period of observation. All ECC observers were accredited by the NEC and permitted to observe at the registration centers and NEC magistrates’ offices on the designated days of observation.

Setup and Opening (see Charts 1 & 3 )

All NEC registration centers generally opened on time, between 8:00 am to 8:30 am with some of the centers opening late, after 9:31 am. Late openings were primarily due to the lack of printer cards, electricity to power the equipment, and the late arrival of some of the NEC registration teams.

► 185 of 216 registration centers opened on time, with only 31 centers opening late. Centers that opened on time were reported to be identifiable to applicants and marked by signs;

► 26 of 216 centers were located within buildings with stairs-making accessibility difficult to persons with disabilities;

► 3 registration staff were present at the opening with at least one female observed to be a member of the team;

► 211 of 216 centers had the critical materials present during set-up- a complete BVR kit present, all the necessary forms (including rejection and complaint forms), and a ledger for recording the names of successful applicants;

Registration Procedures

Once centers were opened, the registration procedures were generally followed; however, NEC staff inconsistently requested proof of eligibility.

► At 206 of 211 registration centers, persons with disabilities, the elderly, and pregnant women were allowed to register before other applicants;

► At 147 of 211 registration centers, applicants were asked to present proof of eligibility before being registered, while in 64 of these centers, applicants were allowed to register without providing proof of eligibility (see Chart 5).

► At 126 of 210 registration centers, every successful applicant had his/her finger marked with indelible ink to minimize double registration;

► At 203 of 211 registration centers, applicants received their voter registration cards before leaving the center; however, in 8 registration centers, successful applicants did not receive their BVR cards mainly due to shortage in cards at these centers

ECC observers reported instances of equipment failure or malfunction during the period:

► At 47 of 211 registration centers, the BVR equipment experienced malfunction but was quickly resolved, and at 18 of these centers, the malfunction caused serious delay;

► At 42 of 211 registration centers, the malfunctioning equipment was immediately fixed or replaced.

► At 68 of 211 registration centers, ECC observers reported that the NEC staff did not fill out the rejection form, whenever an applicant was rejected.

Registration Figures

ECC observers witnessed a total of 18,639 applicants successfully register, an average of 96 successful registrants per center based on 190 reports.

A relatively higher number of women were seen registering at observed centers. Women represented 48% of successful registrants observed by the ECC.

Overall, the average turnout rates were encouraging, especially for women throughout phase one of the process. The ECC appreciates the NEC for releasing the registration figures by county promptly.

Closing of registration centers

ECC observers reported closing of the registration centers generally by 5:30 pm; however, in a small component of these centers, applicants in line by 5:00 pm were not allowed to register.

► 110 of 213 centers observed by ECC closed between 5:00 pm to 5:31 pm and 38 of these centers were reported to close after 6:31 pm.

► Only in 9 of 213 registration centers observed, applicants in line by 5:00 pm were not allowed to register.

Security (see Chart 2)

ECC observers’ reports show a generally low presence of uniformed security personnel at registration centers. Only 130 of 216 registration centers had uniformed security personnel present; 

Party Agents (see chart 4)

ECC observers reported that in 166 of 212 centers observed, political party agents were deployed to witness the conduct of the BVR. The data shows that Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) and the Unity Party (UP) had the highest number of deployed agents followed by the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) and others.

Objections & Appeals on Voter Registration

All county coordinators were deployed at the NEC magistrates’ offices to observe the objection and appeal processes associated with voter registration. The NEC objections and appeals are intended to hear complaints filed during voter registration. by rejected applicants because they were perceived to be underaged, foreigners or the inability to present a valid document to prove their eligibility. However, all 7 county coordinators reported that there was no hearing held at any of the Magistrates’ offices throughout the period of phase one.

Critical Incidents

ECC observers were instructed to immediately report any serious problem believed to threaten the integrity of the voter registration process. Generally, phase one of the voter registration was peaceful, but marred by isolated instances of violence and voter trucking. 

A total of only 12 critical incidents were reported by ECC observers throughout the entire phase one of voter registration. Critical incidents of note that were directly observed by ECC observers include:

► Malfunctioning of BVR equipment due to overheating of the computers, solar panels, or card printers

► Shortages in materials, such as ink and cards at voter registration centers resulted in delays in the BVR process or the closure of some centers for the entire day.

► Instances of voter trucking by aspirants notably in three counties, Margibi, Montserrado, and Grand Bassa, primarily targeting first-time voters;

► Isolated instances of violence and intimidation were carried out in Montserrado-electoral District 10 and Grand Cape Mount-electoral District 01.

While critical incidents are important and reflect serious issues that could significantly affect voter registration, they must also be understood within the overall context. As noted, the process was generally well conducted across the country and the number of registration centers affected by these incidents was small.


The conduct of phase one of the voter registration provides the chance to improve the process for phase two. The ECC provides the following recommendations to improve phase two of the BVR in the remaining 9 counties:

Interim recommendations:

► That the NEC conduct debriefing and adequate supervision of staff to evenly apply registration procedures during the conduct of the process;

► The NEC should also make public preliminary registration figures disaggregated by electoral districts;

► That the NEC increase the time for VR by two weeks for counties with larger populations such as Nimba, Bong and Lofa.

► The NEC should adopt a definite contingency plan to immediately address any possible equipment failure or malfunction during phase two, considering that the counties in phase two are remotely situated;

► The Ministry of Justice should ensure that ongoing investigations into electoral offenses are properly conducted and completed and the outcomes made available to the public and to also hold perpetrators accountable; 

► Political parties are reminded to train and deploy their agents at all VR

Centers in order to maintain confidence in the outcome of the Final Registration Roll;

► The Liberian National Police and other security agencies should increase the presence of uniformed security personnel across the phase two counties to help enforce the law;

Distribution of ECC Observers and NEC Registration Centers by County-BVR Phase-one
   County# of NEC Registration Centers in 2017# of NEC Registration Centers in 2023# ECC District Observers deployed for BVR phase-one# of NEC Registration centers observed for BVR phase-one
Grand Bassa197194530
Grand Cape Mount7676318
Table 1: NEC Registration Centers for Phase One

About ECC

The Elections Coordinating Committee (ECC) is Liberia’s largest domestic election observation network with diverse competencies, experiences, and expertise in democracy, elections, and governance established since 2010. ECC’s members include the Center for Democratic Governance (CDG); Center for Media Studies and Peace Building (CEMESP); Center for Conflict Prevention and Peacebuilding (CECPAP); Institute for Research and Democratic Development (IREDD); Naymote

Partners for Democratic Development (NAYMOTE-PADD); West Africa Network for Peace Building (WANEP), and the Women NGO Secretariat of Liberia (WONGOSOL). The ECC election observation effort is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). “The contents of this update are the responsibility of the ECC and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.”

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The ECC envisions a Liberia where citizens are knowledgeable, have public confidence, and credibility in the democratic process to make informed decisions.

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