Liberia: House to Record Votes?

Deputy Speaker J. Fornati Koffa: “Recording our votes for the permanent record, we signal to Liberia and the world that we are prepared to be judged by the current and historical record of our position on our principle function of lawmaking."   

— Committee on Rules and Order reviews a communication from Deputy Speaker Koffa to amend Rule 19 of the Rules of the House, entitled ‘Voting Procedures’, to put an end to secret voting or ‘Yea or Nay’ voting system, which is not transparent and does not keep records of how lawmakers voted on particular issues.

The House of Representatives has asked the committee on Rules and Order to review a proposed amendment that would require the House to make members’ voting records on every piece of legislation public.

At present, existing House rules do not require the recording and publication of members' voting records on bills or other legislative instruments. Members vote through ‘yea or nay’ or via head counts — a situation that denies the general public the details about how each individual representative voted in deliberations over whether proposals should advance or fall short.

This is happening in a country where the constitution says that “all power is inherent in its people,” but legislators have for years purposely neglected to use a tool created to educate citizens on how their democratically elected representatives vote. 

However, if a two-thirds majority of the House members approve the proposal after a review by the Committee on Rules and Order, it would force the House record members to vote on all bills, budgets, concession agreements, and similar instruments, which would then be available to the public. 

The reform push by Deputy Speaker J. Fornati Koffa, which seeks to amend Rule 19 of the Rules of the House, entitled, “Voting Procedures” is geared toward boosting transparency — putting an end to secret voting or “Yea and Nay” voting system that is not transparent and do not keep records of how lawmakers voted on particular issues.

“The amendment being offered with this letter allows for official recording of votes of the Members on all bills, budgets, concession agreements, and similar instruments,” the Deputy Speaker wrote.  “Recording our votes for the permanent record, we signal to Liberia and the world that we are prepared to be judged by the current and historical record of our position on our principle function of lawmaking." 

The proposal by Representative Koffa is calling on the House to allow all substantive votes of the House to be recorded and kept in the archives and posted in electronic format where available, as well as the signatures of members of the resolution.

“Votes should be recorded when a bill or budget is being passed,  a treaty or concession is being ratified; the vote shall be taken by roll call and recorded electronically or by voice announced on the floor of the House,” he said. “The signature of any member on a resolution on any matter cognizable before the House shall be recorded as an affirmative vote of the member.”

“As Liberian democracy is being recognized as one of the leading democracies in Africa,” Koffa said, “it is incumbent upon the lawmakers, as the People's Deputies, to continue to make advances and make the Legislature, which is appropriately referred to as the First Branch of Government, to be more transparent and accountable to the people they serve.”

Meanwhile, Koffa said that the proposed amendment will allow rigorous monitoring by “our constituents and will serve the rebranding and reform agenda to which we are committed.”

The co-sponsors of the amendment are Representatives Abu Kamara, Melvin Cole, Dixon Seeboe, Dorwohn Gleekia, and Thomas Goshua, respectively.