Liberia: Senate Pro-Tem Chie, Others, Accused of ‘Voter Trucking’

Albert Chie, the President Pro-Tempore of the Senate

“The ECC received reports of Senate Pro-Tempore Albert Chie being allegedly involved with voter trucking in Grand Kru from Maryland and other areas of the country,” the organization, which is Liberia’s election monitoring group, said in a release.

Albert Chie, the President Pro-Tempore of the Senate, has been accused of ‘trucking voters’ from across the country to boost his re-election in Grand Kru County.

Chie, according to the Elections Coordinating Committee (ECC), transported voters from all parts of the country to register in Grand Kru during the just-ended phase two of the National Elections Commission's biometric voter registration exercise.

“The ECC received reports of Senate Pro-Tempore Albert Chie being allegedly involved with voter trucking in Grand Kru from Maryland and other areas of the country,” the organization, which is Liberia’s election monitoring group, said in a statement. “Neither the National Elections Commission nor the Ministry of Justice took any action to stop this serious electoral violation.”

The allegation against Chie, if proven, would constitute a crime of election malpractice. Section 10.1a of the National Elections Law prohibits the ‘trucking of voters.’

According to the law, such violation constitutes an electoral offense and is punishable by a fine or imprisonment for not more than six (6) months or both. Also, Section 3.1 of the Electoral Act states: ‘A person must register to vote at a voter registration center established by the NEC for the place where he or she ordinarily resides and must vote at the polling place established by the NEC for voters registered at that center.’

But while the Electoral Act defines voter trucking as a legal violation and provides some form of punishment for such electoral malpractice, the electoral body is yet to prosecute any offender.

Voter trucking involves the transportation of voters from one location to another to influence election results. The practice, which is considered a violation of the election laws of Liberia, has become widespread with many candidates openly engaging it with no action taken against them.

Voters are trucked for a fee, and in most cases, the fee is above US$10 dollars -- in a country where more than 50% of the population are poor. Grand Kru, which the pro-temp hails from, is one of the poorest counties in Liberia, with the vast majority of its population multidimensionally poor.

However, the alleged action by the pro-temp comes nearly five months after complaining that history has never been kind to Senators seeking re-election as many end up losing.

“Most of our seats are up for electoral contestations in the last quarter of this year,” Chie remarked in a speech on January 16. “Despite years of hard work and constant visits to constituencies, history has unfortunately never been kind to Senators seeking re-elections. We hope this class will be an exception and the return rate will be high. I urge all of us to work towards this goal.”

It is unclear whether the goal Chie was talking about involved voter trucking or not. However, his fear is a reality as only two of 30 senators who sought reelection in 2014 and 2022 were re-elected.

In 2014, the returnees were Vice President, Jewel Howard Taylor, then Senator of Bong County, and Prince Y. Johnson of Nimba County. President George Weah and the Senate Pro-Tempore, himself, were two of 13 new senators who dislodged the previous incumbent Senators.

The biggest casualty of the 2014 special senatorial elections was former Senate Pro-Tempore Gbehzongar Findley (Grand Bassa), who could not triumph despite huge assistance from then President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

The result of the 2022 special senatorial elections was no different either, as only two incumbents again emerged victorious. This time only 14 sought reelections. Senator Alphanso Gaye did not as he was retiring.

Voter Trucking Entrenched Among CDC Lawmakers

Meanwhile, the Elections Coordinating Committee also hooked an array of lawmakers, many of whom belong to the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change, of which Chie is a ranking member.

Trucking, according to the group, was massively supported by paying potential registered voters and was carried out openly with little or no penalty.

The practice, the group said, was prevalent in Bong, Lofa, Nimba, and Grand Kru. Representatives Thomas Fallah and Melvin Cole were some of the key players, the election group said.

“Voter trucking applicants were seen being trucked for the BVR phase two in the counties of Bong, Lofa, Nimba, and Grand Kru. Instances of trucking reported by the ECC observers in Lofa electoral district #1, was orchestrated by Rep. Fallah.”

The Montserrado County District #5 Representative, who is an executive member of Weah's party, is planning to contest in Lofa County. He previously contested for Senator in Montserrado County in 2022 and lost to Senator Abe Darius Dillion.

The voters alleged trucked by Fallah were however intercepted locals of the district -- causing disruptions in the registration process, the group said.  

Cole, the election monitoring group said used motorbikes and keh-kehs to transport votersto the registration center in  Bong County District #3,  without facing any problem. 

Voters  trucking  is human trafficking

The trucking of voters, according to Cllr. T. Negbalee Warner,  is a threat to Liberia’s constitutional democracy and elections, and need to stop.

Warner -- a law professor --- noted in a remark a week ago that  the practice of trucking voters is a form of human trafficking and modern-day slavery that undermines electoral integrity and promotes violence.

The practice, Warner said violates Article 12 of the Liberian Constitution, which prohibits holding any person in slavery and that the normalization of voter trucking is an affront to constitutional principles of a free and fair process.

According to him, trucking of voters is at the request of and for the benefit of the transporter, and it’s not much different from human trafficking.

But elsewhere in Nimba Couty, as Warner was issued this warning, James Somah,  and business tycoon Musa Bility were visibly seeing truckers voters in their respective constitutice.

Somah, who is an aspirant for District #5  alleged act resulted in a fatal motor accident that claimed the lives of three individuals and left several wounded.  

But he later claimed that the victims were  his relatives and citizens of  the district even though they lived in Ganta City, which is more than 10 hours away from his district. 

Bility, who is the Chairman of the opposition Liberty Party and the Collaborating Political Party is beein accused of trucking not non-inhabitants to registered in  Nimba County District #7.

The phase two of the electoral body biometric  voter registation end on May 11 and the result of prelimary registered voters is expected in few weeks.  However,  the result would subject to deduplication process to remove multiple registrants and clean the voter roll to ensure trust in the election process. 

Phase one, according to the electoral body, produced a preliminary number of registered voters of a little over 1.4 million people.

Of this number, 711,410 are females, while 723,799 are males, NEC data shows.  But the figures are subject to change depending on the outcome of the deduplication and adjudication processes, the electoral body noted.

Both the first and second phases of the biometric voter registration proess have been marred by technical glitches, including shortages of biometric cards that prevented some Liberians from registering.

However, NEC  claimed that the overall impact of the technical glitches on the turnout of the biometric voter registration exercise was minimal. 

Electoral experts disagree, saying that the total number of registered voters in the first phase would have been higher if the problems had existed throughout the registration period.

The Commission has moved to use biometric equipment for its voter registration process to streamline the electoral process and reduce the potential for double registration and other forms of voter fraud after coming under pressure to ditch its optical manual registration (OMR) system. 

The OMR system, for many, does not improve the accountability and transparency of electoral processes and is usually tainted by controversy and mistrust.  

The biometric VR system, which is also not a silver bullet, according to many experts, is seen as a safe route to produce a credible voter roll void of double registration.