Liberia: Elections Coordinating Committee Preliminary Statement on Lofa County
This preliminary statement is based on reports that the Elections Coordinating Committee (ECC) has received from 140 out of 162 Short-Term Observers (STOs) deployed to voting Precincts to observe the Lofa Senatorial by-election on June 28.
ECC trained and deployed 168 accredited observers in all five electoral districts of Lofa County to observe the Senatorial by-election. On election day, the ECC released an initial update on the set-up and opening process. Observers noted that the opening process was peaceful, and orderly, and proceeded smoothly with no serious critical incident.
They reported that voting generally commenced on time in most of the observed polling places and all sensitive voting materials were present. However, observers also reported that a relatively high percentage (48%) of observed precincts and polling places were not accessible to people with disabilities or the elderly due to the use of stairs.
Based on reports from ECC observers deployed, voters turned out peacefully to vote with no serious critical incident. ECC commends all voters of Lofa in protecting the peace and democratic stability of Liberia. Generally, observers reported that voting procedures were followed by NEC officials.
In 68% of observed precincts, all voters who presented a valid VR card found their details on the Final Registration Roll (FRR). However, 33% of polling places observed showed that people with valid voter cards names were missing from the FRR. Despite this, no incidence of tension was reported as a result of the missing names from these precincts.
However, ECC observers noted inconsistencies in how NEC staff addressed the issue of voters whose names were missing from the FRR. For instance, in 11% of polling places observed by the ECC, voters with valid voter cards but whose names were missing on the FRR were permitted to vote. In keeping with the NEC Polling and Counting Manual Chapter 4 on ‘Determining Who May Not Vote’ sub-section € states that “A person may not vote if she/he cannot be found in the voters’ roll”.
Observers also noted that political parties deployed agents to observe during voting and counting in all electoral districts observed.
ECC observed that very few complaints were filed on the process. For example, only 6% of observed polling places indicate that party agents filed a complaint.
Observers also noted that in 98% of voting precincts observed, security personnel were present and generally conducted themselves in a professional manner.
Voting Process at Precincts
Within their assigned precincts, ECC observers witnessed NEC staff generally following voting procedures. They reported the following:
- In 98% of precincts observed, voters were asked to present their voter registration (VR) card before being allowed to vote.
- ECC observers in 99% of precincts reported that the ballot papers were stamped before being handed to the voter. They further noted that in some instances, the tactile ballot was issued to visually impaired voters to vote which accounted for 45%.
- In 97% of observed precincts, the voting screen was placed in a way that guaranteed the secrecy of the vote.
- ECC observers noted that the fingers of voters were inked after voting in 99% of observed precincts.
- In all instances, ECC observers noted that priority was given to pregnant women, physically challenged and elderly voters during voting.
Closing and Counting Process at Polling Places
ECC observers reported that 61% of observed polling places closed between 6- 6:30pm. Similarly, during the closing, there were inconsistencies observed in keeping with the regulations. In 79% of observed polling places there were voters still in the queue at 6:00pm. In 59% of observed polling places, voters in the queue at 6:00pm were allowed to vote. However, in 20% of observed polling places, voters still in the queue at 6:00pm were denied the right to vote.
ECC observers also reported that on June 29, 2022,the day after the election, tension ensued between rival supporters of Unity Party’s Galakpai Kortimai and Independent candidate Joseph Jallah following separate pronouncements on radio stations in Foya district by Representative Thomas Fallah and the Unity Party spokesman in Lofa, Peter T. O. James, with both sides claiming victory and calling on their respective supporters to celebrate.
While the ECC is cognizance about the statutory period required for the NEC to announce results, the just ended election in Lofa was a single election and any delay in the announcement of results has the potential to heighten a polarized and divisive political environment in Lofa.
To the National Election Commission:
- That the results should be announced as soon as possible in order to reduce tension in the county.
- Provide timely information to the public on any challenges emerging on the counting, collating and transmission of results.
- Treat all electoral disputes equally and adjudicate them in a timely and transparent manner.
To political parties, independent candidates, and their supporters:
- Remain peaceful, abide by the laws and refrain from using the media to claim victory until the certified and official results are declared by the NEC in keeping with the elections day of Liberia.
- If any political party or independent candidate has grievances on the electoral process and results, they are encouraged to follow the laws and procedures as enshrined in the constitution, electoral laws and regulations.
To the Liberian National Police and other security agencies:
- To continue to demonstrate neutrality and professionalism in dealing with all electoral stakeholders during the post-election period.
To the media:
- Refrain from disseminating misinformation and disinformation during the period of counting, collating and announcement of results.
About the ECC and its Observation of the 2022 Lofa Senatorial by-election
The Elections Coordinating Committee (ECC), is the largest civil society platform that observes elections in Liberia is comprising several organizations: 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; West Africa Network for Peace Building (WANEP) and the Women’s NGO Secretariat of Liberia (WONGOSOL). CDG serves as the chair of ECC. The ECC 2022 observation effort is conducted in partnership with Democracy International (DI) and with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).