“Bad Weather Affects Electoral Process,” But…

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Bad weather left this polling center in Teahplay Bouyealay, Nimba County District #5, empty in 2017.

Some Nimbaians observe

Some Nimbaians have observed that bad weather affects huge voter turnout on election day, and have therefore called on the Legislature to change the voting date from the second Tuesday in October to a favorable date that will attract many eligible voters.

Residents who spoke to the Daily Observer in the county recently, strongly believed that holding a national election on the second Tuesday in October is not favorable because, at the time, some of the major road networks have remained so deplorable, thus making impossible to convey electoral materials to some of the remotest polling centers.

But a personnel assigned Liberia Environmental Agency (EPA) (not named) in the department of meteorology, said that the threats posed by the impact of climate change are overwhelming, and as the country remains vulnerable, every effort to mitigate the climate change threat must be welcomed.

According to our source, this means that those calling for electoral reform, specifically the changing of election activities from raining season to the dry season, “must remain cognizant of weather forecast with climate change where the rain falls sometimes throughout the year.”

Our source added, “Climate change poses a significant threat to people all over the world, particular to livelihoods in least developed countries like Liberia, where climate-related impacts can have dire consequences for the most vulnerable residents.”

“Climate Change,” the EPA source said, continues throughout the year. So, to say the election date should change to dry season, one must take into consideration that the rains fall throughout the year nowadays, owing to climate change.”

The unprecedented flooding being experienced across the country imposes disruptions in terms of energy supply, road transport, agriculture production with consequences extending to the domain of education, health, water and sanitation, gender and social protection to include electoral activities.

On that note, Dahn Nyaway, who contested the Nimba County District #5 representative seat in both the 2005 and 2011 elections, but lost each time, said that the election date should be changed from rainy season to dry season because the feeder roads would be dry to allow free vehicular movements.

“The election timing gives too much hard time to move electoral materials in the rainy season, including campaigning. It even deprives some voters from reaching the polling centers, due to the bad weather,” Nyanway said.

He recommended to the authorities of the National Elections Commission (NEC) or members of the Legislature to consider changing the election timing from the rainy season to dry season so as to enable every registered voter to participate in the process.

Flashback: Some elderly people waiting to cast their ballots in 2017

Augustine Donmen, a farmer added, “We want the government to change the election date from October to either mid – November or early December when the rain have then subsided.”

“I want the government to change the date or increase the polling to avoid us going far places when it is raining,” Nancy Bo, an elderly woman, told the Daily Observer in Ganta.

Some of the citizens refused to vote the first round, arguing that the rain was too much and they were waiting to see if there were a second round, during which they would vote, because by then the rainy season would have ended.

“We want government to change the date and also increase the awareness time, because those involved in awareness can find difficult in reaching everywhere,” said Janjay Cole, an artist.

“Some of the voters traveled a distance before reaching this polling place during the last election, so it will be good to extend the voting date to at least October ending or early November for everybody, whether old or young and even disabled, to take part,” said Alphanso Harris, a teacher in Buu–Yao.

In 2017, there were additional polling places created to enable the participation of more voters, but it is not clear how the geographical demarcation was derived. In some areas, the polling centers were still far apart, while in other areas, especially in the Upper Nimba belt, the polling centers were in very close proximity to each other.

In lower Nimba, there were not many complaints of polling place being far from each other, although in every town or village there was a polling center.

However, a Civil Society group believed that there is no need for reform when it comes to the date of election in Liberia, but believed that the date is almost at the end of the raining season.

According to Martin Sopp of the Grassroots Democracy organization in Nimba, “The timing of the election date is bad, because it is at the end of the raining season. But we are also looking at the reduction in the tenure of the President of Liberia and other elected officials, which is yet to be addressed by previous presidents, beginning with Taylor till now.”

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