The ECC observes that the first week of the Voter Roll Update has been characterized by a breach in the New Elections Law which has created the environment for the occurrence of electoral violence notably in Grand Cape Mount and Bomi Counties and has heightened unnecessary political tension in the country.
Overall, reports from ECC observers show that the VRU has commenced across the entire country but the process did not start simultaneously on September 11, 2020 in all of the 73 electoral districts namely: Maryland, Sinoe, Grand Kru, Rivergee, Districts 6 and 9 in Nimba and District 5, Montserrado County.
The ECC received reports of trucking of voters from Montserrado into Bomi, particularly district number one. One case in point was in District Number One, at the CH Dwey High School with center code number 03071 and Klay Town Hall with center code 03043, Electoral District Number 2. Another incident was reported from Bomi County, Electoral District 1 at center: Moses Vincent Compound with code 03075 where violence, harassment and intimidation disrupted the VRU exercise.
The ECC condemns the trucking of voters and wishes to inform the public that these actions contravene Section 10.1a of the New Elections Law which prohibits the trucking of voters and the practice constitutes an electoral offense and is punishable by a fine or imprisonment for not more than six (6) months or both.
Trucking of voters also undermines the intent of Section 3.1 of the NEL which states that: “A person may register to vote at a voter registration center established by the NEC for the place where he or she ordinarily resides”.
The ECC notes that the trucking of voters which goes with financial benefit and other forms of financial inducement to mobilize support are calculated attempts by politicians to unduly influence the outcome of the results of the December 8, 2020 elections. These practices amount to the commercialization of Liberia’s fragile democracy and undermine the principles of electoral integrity, credibility, and legitimate representation of citizens at the National Legislature.
Except for a few registration centers that opened late at 10am, centers across the country generally opened on time (8am) and had the required staff and election materials including the 2017 voter roll. There was a further challenge of malfunctioning of the cameras but this was not widespread. For instance, an ECC observer reported the late arrival of camera at the MB Massaquoi Public School in District 7 in Montserrado, with center code 30048. Registrants were asked to go to the next center with code 30047 to get their pictures taken and fingers inked after being registered and or updating their information.
Furthermore, an incident was reported from Grand Cape Mount County, Electoral District 2 at the Sinje Public School with center code 12029 where the entire voter roll update was ordered closed by 2:00pm by the NEC’s Magistrate who instructed the VRU team to relocate to Robertsport because they had the wrong Movement Plan. This resulted in the sending home of the remaining registrants on the line who had either come to update their information or get registered.
The ECC further observes that most registration centers lacked uniformed security personnel and about 50% of the total of 115 reports received showed that political parties deployed agents to observe the voter roll update exercise.
For the total number of 115 centers observed during this phase of the observation, 83 centers had hand washing buckets for registrants and staff to use and 53 centers had hand sanitizers. Additionally, the NEC’s officials in 80 of 115 centers were wearing face masks and in the remaining centers, they did not wear the face masks during the conduct of the process. For social distancing, only in 64 centers that registrants and officials practiced social distancing while in 35 centers, there was no social distancing.
The ECC offers the following recommendations to help enhance the quality of the registration exercise and to build citizens’ trust in the electoral process:
To the Government:
- To minimize ongoing tension around allegations of Sierra Leoneans being trucked into Liberia to register, we call on the government to close the border with Sierra Leone for the next phase of the VRU.
To international development partners (ECOWAS, USAID, EU, UN):
- Organize a broad-based stakeholders’ consultation with political parties, CSOs, media, religious institutions, and prominent citizens to reduce the escalating tension in the country.
To the NEC:
- Conduct an immediate investigation of voters trucking and prosecute the doers in keeping with due process of law as this behavior has the propensity to undermine the peace and security of the country.
To Joint Security:
- Security agencies should be on the alert and to ensure that all individuals arrested for violent actions during the VRU are held to account in keeping with due process of law. This will instill deterrence and reduce impunity.
To Political Parties
- Demonstrate political tolerance backed by public commitment to remain civil during the entire electoral processes, reduce the use of inflammatory statements and call on supporters to refrain from violence and intimidation of opposing parties.
- Remain peaceful and in instances wherein there are accusations of voters trucking, report the matter to the police, NEC Magistrate, or other local leaders for their interventions.
The ECC has deployed 89 total observers – one county coordinator per county for each of the 15 counties (with an additional coordinator for Montserrado County) – and electoral district observer for each of the 73 electoral districts. All ECC observers were carefully selected and thoroughly trained by the ECC as well as accredited by the National Elections Commission (NEC).
All 89 observers were instructed to observe at a single registration center throughout the day on three days of the first week. The ECC deployed observers in all of the 73 electoral districts across the 15 counties to observe the Voter Roll Update (VRU) process. This update covers the first week of the exercise (September 11-15, 2020).
You can download a copy of the ECC statement here: