Liberia: NEC Rejects Unity Party's Claims Amidst Voting Controversy

Davidetta Browne Lansanah, the Chairperson of the National Elections Commission

-- “This is not part of our procedure, and we will not tolerate it. This has gone too far, and we are not going to surrender the commission's work into the hands of political parties,” Davietta Browne-Lansanah, the Commission's Chairperson said.

The National Elections Commission (NEC) has dismissed the Unity Party's (UP) allegations that the Commission sanctioned the public announcement of voters' names before allowing them to cast their votes.

Davietta Browne-Lansanah, the Commission's Chairperson, stated during a press briefing yesterday that both the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) and UP sought approval to audibly call out voters' names while party agents checked against the Final Registration Roll (FRR). However, the meeting failed to materialize as only one party showed up.

Lansanah, however, refrained from disclosing the party that did not attend to solidify the proposed agreement.

“The Election Commission did not approve any Memorandum of Understanding between political parties. That is false. At no point did this Commission endorse such an agreement,” she said.”We received letters from the Unity Party and the CDC on a similar issue. We invited them for a meeting to discuss their concerns. They agreed on a Standard Operating Procedure (SOE), but one party said yes, while the other chose not to show up.”

The Commission’s rejection follows reports that, at some polling places, names of voters were announced before allowing them to vote.

Upon receiving alerts about this, the NEC released a statement instructing staff to cease calling out names, a move contested by the Unity Party, accusing the Commission of undermining and thwarting the runoff results.

"Unity Party is troubled by the Press Statement from the National Elections Commission calling on its polling staff to reject and discontinue a process whereby a voter entering the polling room will state his or her name to the Commission's Voter Identification Officer,” Browne said.

The NEC chairman added, “We strongly believe that within a three-foot distance, party agents will have the opportunity to hear the name of any voter and verify whether they are fully listed on the FRR. The FRR was issued to all political parties by NEC to verify whether a voter is fully captured and listed in it.”

In a communication to NEC dated October 24, UP informed NEC that it would issue hard copies of the FRR to poll watchers to validate the authenticity of a voter entering a polling room.

According to Lansanah, calling out a voter's name aloud contradicts the NEC’s polling and counting procedures and has the potential to expose voters to undue scrutiny by unauthorized persons, jeopardizing voter protection.

Such actions, Lansanah said, compromise the secrecy of the voting process.

“It puts voters at risk. When you approach the polling staff, they take your card, check your name, and look into the FRR. When they find your name, they are to give you your ballot. However, party agents were instructing electoral staff to use the FRR in their possession to identify voters.

“This is not part of our procedure, and we will not tolerate it. This has gone too far, and we are not going to surrender the commission's work into the hands of political parties.”

The FRR contains information about every registered voter, including names and pictures, managed by polling staff to check and verify a voter’s legitimacy.

 “Once a voter enters a polling center, NEC’s chairman noted, they are required to present their card to the NEC’s staff who will then check for the name and picture. If found, that voter must be given a ballot paper to mark.”

Meanwhile, the NEC Chairperson has called on Liberia to fulfill its role in adequately informing the Commission of any malfeasance, but “the Commission finds it challenging to trust the media.”

“The way your don’t trust us, we too don’t trust you,” she responded to questions from numerous journalists about alleged irregularities.”