Liberia: Police Arrest One for Double Registration

.... “This is why the Commission is capturing biometric data of registrants – thumbprint and face,” Sengbeh said. “The Central Management System is in place and the voter information of registrants involved in double registration will be deactivated.”

The Liberia National Police (LNP) on Sunday arrested a man who succeeded in registering twice and obtaining two biometric voter identification cards, the National Elections Commission (NEC) has disclosed.

The man initially registered using the name Elijah Zadia in Montserrado at Registration Center Code 30422 with April 1, 1968 as date of birth and ID number being 105134786452.

He later went to another center, also in Montserrado County, and was again successfully registered, this time with the name Elijah Smith. His biodata at the new center coded 30427 includes birthdate as April 12, 1968. His voter registration number for Card number two is 01193021168.

The NEC, in a late Sunday night statement, lauded the LNP for being proactive. The statement, signed by the commission’s deputy communication director, Prince Dunbar, said that the work of the Commission is not an isolated job but a collaborative effort with other agencies of government, stakeholders and the national security apparatuses are no exception.

“NEC notes and emphasizes that it is a crime to register or attempt to register more than once and that those involved are taking risks, because they will be exposed through the biometric system, and their information will subsequently be reported to the Ministry of Justice for Persecution,” he said.

Although the Liberia National Police is yet to confirm the arrest of Zadia, details available to the Daily Observer contain that there will be a press conference today at the Police headquarters to address the findings and the issue(s) involved.

With the arrest of Zadia, the NEC’s Executive Director, Anthony Sengbeh, told the Daily Observer yesterday evening that the decision for the commission to transition from the Optical Mark Recognition (OMR) to biometric voter registration (BVR) platform is being justified.

The objective for the migration is to have a credible voter roll, void of duplicate registration by using unique human physical characteristics, the NEC has consistently said.

“This is why the Commission is capturing biometric data of registrants – thumbprint and face,” Sengbeh said. “The Central Management System is in place and the voter information of registrants involved in double registration will be deactivated.”

Although Zadia was not identified immediately by the new voter registration system as it is done when there is deduplication, the NEC said it is glad that no one will succeed in beating the system. “We believe in the new system employed for the elections and we will execute it to the fullest,” Sengbeh said.

He said NEC will continue to work with not only the Police but all other partners, including the media and observers to tackle any criminal act that might be meted against the system by anyone.

NEC relocates VRCs

Meanwhile, the NEC has said that it is facing a series of technical glitches, one of which is the relocation of numerous voter registration centers.

The commission said at a press conference over the weekend that it is facing challenges with some disgruntled property owners who have refused for their facilities to be used, this time, for the registration exercise.

The NEC said its staff assigned to the disputed centers was barred from using the facilities, and talks with owners were fruitless.

The centers were relocated to makeshift structures where workers of the commission are experiencing a series of constraints, NEC Chairperson, Davidetta Browne Lansanah, said.

She, however, declined to name the centers affected on grounds that the commission is still in negotiation with the owners of the properties—with the hope that a mutual understanding could be reached.

“The Commission is still grappling with the refusal of some facility owners to grant our BVR staff access to their facilities. In some areas where the NEC initially set up, ultimatums were issued by owners to vacate the premises within days following the start of the process,” Lansanah said. 

“This has led the NEC to improvise by constructing makeshift structures nearby where voter registration continues. Some think that there is so much money and they should be given some but it is not like that. We can only afford tokens of appreciation. We do not guarantee specific amounts because there is no official amount set aside to rent places or build any,” she said.

Meanwhile, the NEC chair has blamed the technical glitches at the beginning of the exercise on the limited understanding of some of its temporary registration staff.

“They are facing challenges with how to set up, how to activate, and how to troubleshoot the new system,” Lansanah continued. The introduction of new technology comes with

limited knowledge and as such glitches do occur. Such challenges are not peculiar to Liberia.”

To address the technical challenges, the NEC chairperson said the Commission has deployed a mobile technical team to all the voter registration centers across the six counties to address each concern that may arise.

The counties, including Bomi, Margibi, Gbarpolu, Grand Cape Mount and Montserrado, are currently being served in Phase One of the voter registration process, which is  expected to end on May 11 this year. Phase two will cover far away counties including Grand Kru, River Cess, River Gee, Maryland, Sinoe and Nimba Counties. Others to form part of phase two are Bong and Nimba Counties.