The most delayed and long-awaited official final report on the December 8, 2020 National Referendum was yesterday released to the public by the National Elections Commission (NEC) with all eight propositions defeated.
In summary, the reduction of the number of years for all elected officials, including the President, Vice President and Legislators; change of election date from October to November; and dual citizenship for all Liberians holding citizenship in other countries were the propositions that could not meet the benchmark to form a part of the Liberian Constitution.
Had any of the propositions passed, there would have been an amendment to the 1986 Constitution reflecting the propositions that would have passed.
In the same 1986 Constitution, election day is set for the second Tuesday in October while dual citizenship, even for Liberians by birth, is prohibited.
“On December 8, 2020, Liberians throughout the country cast their votes in the 8 propositions to amend certain articles of the Liberian constitution. Thereafter the votes were tallied and the referendum results from 14 counties were announced,” Davidetta Browne Lansanah, NEC chairperson told yesterday told journalists at a press conference held at the Commission’s headquarters in Sinkor.
Madam Lansanah reported: “Fellow Liberians, the Commission is pleased to announce that based on the results of the 2020 referendum, none of the eight propositions met the constitutional threshold of two-thirds.”
According to the NEC boss, Article 91 of the Liberian Constitution provides that in order for a proposition to be ratified or amended, two thirds of those voting in the referendum must vote in favor of it.
She explained that Section 4A.4 of the Elections Law states that: “The fraction of two thirds (2/3) required for approval of a question in a referendum is calculated by dividing the number of valid votes cast in approval of the question by the total number of the valid votes cast on the question.”
“On September 20, 2011, the Supreme Court, in its opinion on the challenge to the result of the referendum of that year (2011), held that invalid votes shall not be included in the sum of the total votes,” she noted.
She added: “However, the referendum result from Gbarpolu County could not be announced because the voting in Nomodatouno Town was disrupted. Consequently, the NEC conducted the Special Senatorial Elections (SSE), and referendum in Nomodatouno on January 7, 2021.
“A complaint was filed which resulted in a stay order placed on the announcement of the result from Gbarpolu until the complaint is disposed of.”
She further elaborated on the calculation method that, “In keeping with the above, you get to the total valid votes cast by adding all of the “Yes votes to all of the “No votes”. Of this sum, you have to ascertain whether the yes votes on each proposition reach the two-thirds requirement for approval. If they do, the proposition is approved. If not, the proposition is rejected.”
Madam Lansanah continued that, “Because the referendum is a national election — the ‘Yes and No’ votes from the fifteen Counties (on each proposition) must be added together to determine whether the yes votes reach the two-thirds requirement for approval. This process is done for each of the propositions.”
Notable about the December 8 referendum was that President George Weah led a vigorous campaign wishing for Liberians, particularly eligible voters, to vote “YES” to all of the propositions.
Weah’s image was seen on billboards and placards, calling on all eligible voters to vote “YES” to all of the propositions, but his image’s presence on the billboards, to the opposition block, sparked another debate that he (Weah) took ownership of the national referendum, something they felt was undermining the electoral system.
However, due to the limited time coupled with inadequate civic voter education as well as opposition political parties campaign against the propositions amid rising hardship, none of the eight recommendations was voted for to become part of the Constitutional amendment.
To Weah, reducing the tenures of office for President, Vice President, and Legislators from six and nine years respectively to five and seven years would have made lots of sense and prevented elected officials, including the President and the Vice President from being complacent and forgetful of the need to work for the country and its people.
Montserado County Senator, Abraham Darius Dillon, was among others who campaigned against the passage of the propositions, except the dual citizenship which did not find its way for passage also.
However, Dillon perhaps suspecting that the propositions including Dual Citizenship may not past, has introduced a “Bill” seeking his colleagues’ approval to pass into law the “Dual Citizenship” Act.