Davedetta Browne- Lansanah
National Elections Commission
Republic of Liberia
June 20, 2022
Dear Madam Lansanah:
I write this letter to your office ahead of the 2023 presidential and legislative elections; with the hope of resolving critical issues that may affect the credibility of the elections and their results.
I request your Board of Commissioners' immediate action to take concrete steps to protect the integrity of the elections and ensure sustained public confidence in the 2023 general and presidential elections, and that the elections are conducted in a free, fair, and transparent manner, as anticipated!
My ardent concern is in consideration of previous critical issues that either disenfranchised voters in rural Liberia or cast doubt on the NEC's credibility as a result of some NEC staffers' unethical, unprofessional and dubious activities that resulted to a re-run in the by-election in District 15 in Montserrado County.
During the 2020 midterm senatorial election, I contested for the Gbarpolu County's Senate seat. During that electoral process, I observed that many voters across Gbarpolu county were disenfranchised from exercising their constitutional voting rights simply because NEC failed to place voting center(s) in their towns. Most of them had to walk hours ranging from one(1) to five(5), thus serving as a way of denying them the right to vote.
After analyzing this situation in Gbarpolu County, I contacted other candidates from other counties, and raised the issue with them. Interestingly, with the exception of Montserrado County, all of the other counties were faced with the same concern of the difficulty rural dwellers faced.
It will interest you to know the vast differences in the number of polling centers and the distances between those polling centers in Montserrado county, and those of other rural counties. There are big and populated towns in rural Liberia that have no polling centers. Voters in those towns are left with the options to either walk several hours to vote or sit home and keep their voting cards. Aging voters, people with disabilities and pregnant women who are unable to walk longer distances, are left with one option, sit home. This is discriminatory and a denial of participatory democracy.
Honorable Chair and Board of Commissioners of the National Elections Commission, I am sure that you are aware that the voters in Montserrado county are as important and equally Liberians as the voters in rural Liberia. If a voter in ELWA Rehab can have access to many polling centers in his/her community, why would a voter in Gbarpolu County from Guwoma Town walk five (5) hours to go and vote in Toikai? Is the voter in ELWA Rehab more Liberian and important than the voter in Guwoma Town? Of course not. But these rural dwellers are disenfranchised right from the beginning of the voters registration process by placing little or no emphasis on their participation in the electoral process. Much more concentration is given to urban, suburban and county capitals which attract the attention of development partners, observers and NEC's higher oversight persons. They would normally assume that the electoral process in rural communities is the same as in urban communities. This is not always true. Even with voters' education, the pattern is the same; much attention is paid to urban, sub-urban and county capitals.
Based on my participatory observation, I am requesting that during this biometric voter registration across Liberia, all towns and villages be considered for polling centers. In my view, this will enable all Liberians of voting ages to exercise their constitutional rights to vote. In addition to my observation about the case of Montserrado County and rural Liberia, there are many polling centers that NEC has to pay rent for in Montserrado county. In the case of rural Liberia, Government School buildings or public buildings can be used free of charge. The plenty millions that are usually allotted for Civic education which has not yielded actual or any impactful results could be cut down and portions be transferred to pay for additional poll watchers that will be added to the existing list. Am quite sure that if all towns get access to polling center(s), more or all citizens ( have equal right as Montserrado County's residents), will have equal opportunity to exercise their constitutional voting right as opposed to the selective and subjective methods used over the past times
The second critical issue has to do with the appointment of Commissioner Floyd Sayor as the Chairman of the 2023 Nomination Committee of the National Elections Commission.
Honorable Chair and Members of the Board of Commissioners of the NEC, it is scaring and dangerous to even imagine Commissioner Floyd Sayor near that committee. In a normal or sound democratic society, Mr. Floyd Sayor would have been dismissed during the Montserrado County's District number 15 by- elections that witnessed so much electoral violence. Several complaints were filed against then "Data Center" Director Floyd Sayor's unethical, unprofessional and dangerous practices and activities that resulted to a re-run of the by-election in selective places in District # 15. Director Floyd Sayor’s action cost the NEC and the Liberian Government millions of dollars to conduct the re- run.
Instead of Director Floyd Sayor's unprofessional conduct being acted upon and he being turned over to the Ministry of Justice for prosecution, he was retained and later nominated to serve as one of the Commissioners of the National Elections Commission. This is clearly and overtly dignifying , legitimizing and promoting his unethical, unprofessional and dubious activities. In fact, his nomination to the position of Commissioner clearly shows that he was working for a higher up.
Honorable Chair and Members of the Board of Commissioners of NEC, it is disastrous from the onset to appoint a fraudster to head the nomination committee of the 2023 general and presidential elections, that is expected to be very competitive or most contested. Commissioner Floyd Sayor's presence on the Commission was a mistake from the day of his nomination by President Weah. Appointing him to a very sensitive and strategic internal position such as "Chairman of the Nomination Committee" is disastrous from day one. His role is the beginning of confidence crisis and an opportunity for " compromised" electioneering. Please check Chief Hearing Officer of NEC, Cllr. Vaye's ruling on the District 15 by- election's re-run. The fact is clear and vivid. Do something about this dangerous situation!
Sam Kamara Zinnah
Former Senatorial Candidate