The Elections Coordinating Committee (ECC) observed that there was significant improvement in the conduct of phase two of the Bio-metric Voter Registration (BVR) process in nine counties of Liberia. At the same time, the process experienced challenges including equipment failure, the shortage of cards, and the failure to complete rejection forms for those who were turned down during registration:
The ECC deployed 49 trained observers to observe the conduct of phase two of the BVR in 37 electoral districts. Overall, the ECC received a total of 220 reports on the conduct of voter registration from all nine counties and 37 electoral districts targeted in phase two. Observers reported that NEC registration staff were more consistent in the application of the eligibility requirements before registering applicants.
Setup and Opening:
► 193 of 220 registration centers observed opened on time, with only 26 of the centers opening late. ECC observed that late opening of centers was due to the lack of ink for the printer, shortage of cards or the lack of electricity to power the equipment. Nimba and Lofa were seen to have the highest number of centers that opened late.
► 159 of 220 centers were seen to be accessible to persons with disabilities or special needs. However, 61 of the centers observed were located within buildings with stairs-making accessibility difficult;
► 3 registration staff were present at opening with at least one female observed to be a member of the team; This corresponds with the data from phase one of the process.
► 219 of 220 centers had a complete BVR kit present at opening with all the necessary forms (including rejection and complaint forms) and ledger for recording the names of successful applicants; This is also an improvement from phase one which had 4 centers missing a BVR kit based on 216 reports. Registration Procedures
► At 216 of 219 registration centers, persons with disabilities, the elderly, and pregnant women were given preference to register before other applicants;
► At 185 of 219 registration centers, applicants were asked to present proof of eligibility before being registered while in 34 of these centers, applicants were allowed to register without providing proof of eligibility. This is quite an improvement as compared to phase one where it was observed that 64 of the total centers observed, staff did not request proof of eligibility.
► At 215 of 219 registration centers, every successful applicant had his/her finger marked with an indelible ink to minimize double registration;
► At 215 of 219 registration centers, applicants received their voter registration cards before leaving the center. The failure to present printed voter registration cards was due to card shortages or printer malfunction.
► At 60 of 219 registration centers, the BVR equipment experienced malfunction but was quickly resolved, and at 14 of these centers, the malfunction caused serious delay to the process; This is similar to the extent to which the malfunctioning equipment affected phase one of the BVR.
► At 41 of 219 registration centers, the malfunctioning equipment was immediately fixed or replaced.
► At 64 of 219 registration centers, ECC observers reported that the NEC staff did not fill the rejection form, whenever an applicant was rejected.
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.
► 162 of 218 centers observed by ECC closed between 5:00 pm to 5:30 pm and 54 of these centers were reported to close after 5:31 pm.
► Only in 9 of 219 registration centers observed, applicants in line by 5:00 pm were not allowed to register.
128 of 220 centers observed were reported to have uniformed security personnel present throughout the day. This is a marginal increase compared to phase one.
Political party representatives were present to observe the BVR process in 163 of the 219 centers that the ECC observed, which is an improvement over phase one. However, when it comes to high agent deployment, the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) and the Unity Party (UP), deployed the most agents.
Objections & Appeals on Voter Registration
Unlike the BVR phase one, ECC observers reported that 4 hearings on objections and appeals were heard by the NEC Magistrates in Maryland and Rivercess Counties. In Maryland, the hearings were focused on attempted registration by minors and registration attempts by immigrants from Ivory Coast. In these cases, the applicants were rejected because they were unable to present any proof of their eligibility and they were banned from registering. Similar to this, a hearing concerning a rejected female applicant who was thought to be underage was held in Rivercess. It was established following the hearing that she was qualified to register.
Equipment failure & shortage in BVR cards: During the observed period, ECC observers reported several critical incidents involving equipment failure or malfunction, low power supply to the BVR kit and shortage in BVR cards. This caused the process to be significantly delayed in some cases and shut down for the full day at other centers. The affected centers’ names, area codes, and locations are listed below:
- Bong electoral district 01-Palala Public School with center code 06046;
- Bong electoral district 02-MD Massaquoi high school with code 06238;
- Bong electoral district 05-Guermue Public School with code 06053;
- Bong electoral district 06-Martha Tubman School with code: 06026;
- Bong electoral district 07-Kristen Marie high school with center code 06170
- Lofa electoral district 01- Fassapoe town hall, Foya with center code 21020;
- Nimba electoral district 08-Kpoahpa Whenten Public School with center code 33181;
Voter trucking: Like phase one, the BVR phase two was characterized by voter trucking in Bong, Lofa, Nimba, and Grand Kru Counties in contravention of Section 10.1 of the New Elections Law of Liberia. Below are documented instances of trucking reported by ECC observers:
- Lofa electoral district 01- Foya, at Sengar Palava hut with center code 21083: ECC observer reported the trucking of voters to the registration center, orchestrated by Representative Thomas P. Fallah. The group was intercepted by citizens who attempted to stop them from registering, which interfered with the registration process.
- Bong electoral district 03- Meleki Town hall with center code 06085: Motorbikes and Kehkeh were seen transporting applicants to the registration center. ECC observer received reports that this act was being financed by Representative Melvin Cole office in Monrovia.
- Nimba electoral district 05: Aspirant James Somah, was reported to have trucked applicants in a pickup from Ganta district 1 to Yao Lehpula, district 5 which resulted in a tragic motor accident leading to death of atleast three persons, leaving several wounded.
- Nimba electoral district 07- It was reported that aspirant Musa Bility was involved with trucking of applicants to Saclepea who were non-inhabitants.
- Grand Kru County: ECC received reports of Electoral district 01 aspirant Alfred Boe and Senate Pro-Tempore Albert Chea being allegedly involved with voter trucking in Grand Kru from Maryland and other areas of the country.
Reports of Underaged Registration: During the BVR Phase two, ECC received reports involving underage registration. While incidents of underage registration were verified and confirmed in Grand Kru, the ECC observer in Lofa reported that the allegations were untrue. Below are accounts of the incidents from the two counties:
Grand Kru: The ECC observer reported that the Lutheran Church, with center code 18018, as well as other areas in the county, were impacted by incidents of underage registration. The NEC Magistrate issued additional instructions to Registrars, instructing them to ask parents who visit the facility to certify the age of their children to sign a bond before proceeding with the registration in order to regulate the situation.
Lofa: In Foya, Electoral District 01- Lofa County, the ECC County Coordinator reported an incident involving the denial of a male applicant who was accused of being underage by his father. The ECC Coordinator claims that this prompted a police investigation and the engagement of the NEC Magistrate responsible for this region. The investigation revealed that the male applicant was of legal voting age, and his father was imprisoned for making a false claim.
The ECC proposes the following recommendations for consideration:
- In order to increase transparency, ECC calls on the NEC to invite representatives from political parties and national and international observation groups to observe the downloading of data and the de-duplication process.
- That the NEC undertakes a public outreach to create an awareness on the Exhibition process.
- Lastly, that the NEC is encouraged as in phase one to release the phase two results disaggregated by electoral districts and gender.
- Political parties and aspirants are advised to file formal complaints with the NEC if they have concerns about the process or outcome of phase two of the BVR exercise.
▪ That all registered voters should take advantage the Exhibition exercise, which is set for June 12–17, 2023, to verify their information on the provisional registration list.
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 does not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.”
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