Lofa Senatorial By-election Results: NEC Getting Math Wrong?
Editor's note: The ruling Coalition for Democratic Change supported Candidate Cllr Joseph K. Jallah has won the just-ended Lofa County Senatorial By-elections, according to final results from the National Elections Commission. Jallah obtained a little over 22,000 votes representing 36 percent of the valid votes, while Galakpai Kortimai of the Unity Party came a close second with just over 21,000 votes, representing 35 percent. The NEC's pronouncement was made on July 1, a few hours after this story about the provision result was published.
Cllr. Joseph Jallah, the candidate supported by the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), appears likely to win the Lofa County Senatorial by-election, as 80 percent of the official vote tally put him ahead of his closest rival by a margin of 3,816 votes.
However, a review of the National Elections Commission suggests that the math in the data tally does not add up.
The official count by the NEC showed that Jallah, who ran as an independent but was heavily supported by the CDC in the lead with 20,482 votes, constituting 40.61%, while Galakpai Kortimai of the Unity Party is near with 16,666 votes, 33.04%.
The votes represent 83.92% of results from 381 of the total of 454 polling places across the County have been reported and tallied — giving Jallah has an early advantage — but the final battle of who becomes the winner depends on the outcome of the remaining 73 polling places, representing 16.8 percent that is yet to be counted and tallied.
However, a review of the NEC preliminary data posted on its website yesterday, shows that at Forbayman Public School, in electoral district #1, Jallah got 550 votes, despite the fact that he got 148 votes at polling place one and 127 votes at polling Place two — totaling 275.
At Forbayman Public School, polling place one had a valid vote total of 180 and invalid votes of 18, totaling 198 votes. While polling place two, valid votes were 162 and invalid votes of 6, totaling 168 votes.
Combined, the school had total valid votes of 342 and invalid votes of 24 — an equivalent of 366 votes cast. At this voting center, UP candidate Kortimai got 21 twice from both polling places but NEC gave him 84 votes instead of 42 votes.
Again, at Porluma Town Hall, in District one, Jallah got whooping votes of 1,744 votes instead of 872 votes. Porluma Town Hall had five polling places — and from polling places one to five, Jallah received: 176, 191, 192, 147, and 166 votes, which should have been 872, but NEC gave him 1744, a difference of 872 votes.
While Kortimai from polling places one to five, got the following votes: 38, 34, 25, 2, 0, and 25 votes — totaling 142 votes but NEC reported 284 votes. Valid votes from the five polling places in Porluma total 1,077 and invalid votes counts were 45 — giving combined votes cast of 1,112.
Also at Bandenin Melimu Town Hall two polling places, Jallah received 46 and 47 votes, however, NEC reported a total of 186 votes when it should have been 93. For Kortimai, he got 10 and 11 votes, from both polling places combined, but NEC data claimed 42 votes instead of 21 votes.
The Town Hall total valid votes were 536, while invalid votes were 106 -- producing a combined total of 642 votes. On the Bandenin Melimu Town tally sheet, Jallah's names appeared three times on the tally sheet and he got votes for each.
All of this took place in electoral district #1 Lofa County, which covered the northern part of the county, particularly Foya.
Similarly at Bowalahun Town Hall, in electoral District #3, which had five polling places but three reporting — Jallah obtained the votes of 187, 126, and 149, which totals 924, according to NEC data. It should have been 456 votes.
Kortimai also got the following votes of 16, 6, and 8, producing a total, as reported by NEC 60 votes. Correctly, it should have been 30 votes. At Bowalahun total votes were 1,717, while invalid votes counted for 78; thus producing combined total votes cast of 1,795. Similarly, on Bowalahun's tally sheet, Jallah's name appears three times on the tally sheet and he got votes for each.
Porluma Town Hall
Jallah has contested three different senatorial elections, including 2011, 2014, and 2020 and emerged as third, second and second prior to this 2022 Special Senatorial By-election, which occurred due to the criminal conviction of former Defense Minister Brownie Samukai. He came second to Samukai during the 2020 midterm senatorial elections.
UP Commits with Caveat
Earlier, the former ruling Unity Party (UP) promised to accept the Lofa County Senatorial by-election results once found credible and nothing less.
The UP position comes as NEC was set to announce the Preliminary result today, two days after the election in a race that appears tight and too close to call. Unofficial statements from the camps of Jallah and his supporters and Kortimai both made early claims of victory, leading to serious tension in Lofa County.
However, an official statement from the UP appears to have toned down the heat, calling for calm and pledging to accept the election results, provided that they are found to be credible.
“The road has been challenging, but as a people, you stood up for democracy and your rights to vote and decide your representation; the Unity Party is grateful to have been part of that process,” the party said in a release on June 30. “The UP calls on all its partisans to remain calm, and peaceful as we await the National Elections Commissions to announce the results. The Unity Party will accept the results once found credible; we urge all others to follow suit.
“Our profound appreciation goes out to the partisans and technical teams who are still working to ensure that the election was free and fair and the enfranchisement of the people of Lofa County is protected.”
However, some opposition supporters view the UP statement as a sign of weakness. Responding to the UP release, Patrick Honnah, a senior strategist for the party, is not impressed. “As an analyst, this faint statement even before the preliminary results are announced suggests that your candidate lost,” he said in a Facebook post. “Who does that? No need to go on with this any further. Congrats Jallah. Let's move to the next stage.”
The UP position comes as Lofa District #1 Representative, Francis Nyumalin, a party hardliner, claimed that in the wake of the ballot counting process, they have noticed with utmost dismay a “ploy by the corrupt President George Weah administration to rob his people of their choice in the senatorial by-election conducted on June 28.”
“Due to the massive failure of this administration and its gross ineptitude to execute the mandate entrusted to them by the people of Liberia, we believe the CDC-led government views this Senatorial by-election in Lofa as their last hope to hang on to power,” Nyumalin said in a statement on June 29.
“In so doing, they will attempt, as is already evident by the malicious falsehood being spread all over social media and other media outlets, to do anything within their corrupt scope of thinking to cheat and rob the people of Lofa of their constitutional franchise again.”
Nyumalin added that based on the results gathered and unquestionable empirical data, approximately 81 percent of the total votes cast have been counted; and at this point, it is crystal clear that the UP candidate Kortimai, is in a comfortable lead with more than over 20,000 votes while the governing CDC candidate, Jallah, is trailing behind with about 15,000, a difference of 5,000.
He added that with the remaining uncounted votes, common sense dictates that no matter what the results of those votes may be, the winner of this senatorial by-election is the Unity Party candidate.
“Therefore, let me state categorically that the Unity Party and the people of Lofa County, will not accept any fraudulent results intended to satisfy nor please Weah and his corrupt regime.”
But Nyumalin's colleague, Montserrado County District #5 Rep. Thomas Fallah of the CDC, has accused the UP of being unwilling to tell their followers the truth — “that this election is lost.” Fallah added that the fantasy narrative is far from reality and has created an impression among UP supporters that they have won the election -- which could incite violence in the county.
He noted that the situation is unfortunate but more frustrating that these claims are being embraced by a sizeable minority of voters and public officials – many of whom know better.
“You place the interests of our county above everything else. Your decision to break with tradition and embrace change is a powerful statement of hope, faith, and courage,” Fallah said. “As I’ve always said, this election is not about any one person, it’s about the future of our county. As you did with your votes, let’s continue to place the interests of our county above everything else.
“On election night, the votes were counted and supervisors at polling places received tally sheets. By early morning, candidates were aware of the final results from their respective field teams. But the Unity Party and its propaganda have been unwilling to tell their followers the truth — that this election is lost.”
“Right now, the leaders of the Unity Party have a choice to make. They can continue stoking fear and division. Or they can embrace the truth and extinguish the gaze of division and hate. My hope is that, for the sake of preserving our peace and democracy, my colleagues in the Unity Party will embrace truth over propaganda because we know that the people of Lofa will not be intimidated by lies and propaganda.”
Apart from the two candidates, the rest including two sitting lawmakers — Mariama Fofana and George Semah — have conceded defeat and pledged to accept the results.