The Election Coordination Committee (ECC), in its latest scrutiny of the electoral process, has turned the spotlight on the recently released preliminary report of the National Elections Commission (NEC) that it registered 2, 026,426 voters.
The ECC is the largest professional civil society platform that observes all aspects of elections in Liberia in partnership with the National Democratic Institute with funding from USAID.
Commenting on the NEC report, the ECC coordinator, Oscar Bloh, said voter apathy coupled with the slow pace at which citizens turned out to register leave “the ECC unsure that the NEC will reach its projected target of 2.5 million voters.”
On March 23, the NEC reported that it received and processed 2,026,426 voter registration forms as well as other electoral materials from 11 of the 15 counties during the voter registration process.
NEC chair Cllr. Jerome Korkoya said although the commission did not meet its target of 2.5 million voters, it appreciates the over two million people who have successfully registered to vote in October.
However, Bloh contends that “of the VR centers observed by the ECC, there was on average 46 applicants who successfully registered, with women representing 45 percent of successful registrants.”
He made the observation on Wednesday at a press conference held under the theme, “ECC Final Press Statement on Voter Registration Observation and Other Issues Bordering on the Conduct of the October Elections.”
The ECC further observed that the resident clause intended to prevent the “trucking” of voters was difficult to enforce at all times because election workers did not have the means to certify who ordinarily resided in a given location.
At the same time, the ECC said the VR regulation did not clarify how registration officials were to determine if an applicant ordinarily resided in a particular location.
According to Article 77 (b) of the Liberian Constitution, every citizen 18 years of age and above can register as a voter and to vote in public elections. This requirement, the ECC said, excludes Liberians who turned 18 after the end of the VR period, but still qualify to vote on October 10.
“If registration had been done based on the applicant’s age on election (day), then the NEC should register all Liberians born on or before October 10, 1999,” adding that this approach would have given more young people the opportunity to register and vote.
The VR regulation, according to the ECC, has a timeframe set for the processing and collation of VR forms, which makes the processing period discretionary to the NEC.
The ECC has meanwhile called on the government to accelerate the operations of the National Registry for the issuance of national identification cards that will be used in future VR processes; that NEC applies due diligence in the recruitment of election workers who have knowledge of the local context, and are properly uniformed during electoral activities; that the NEC considers increasing the number of VR centers to facilitate the participation of Liberian citizens in its processes.
The ECC has advised the NEC to refrain from making public pronouncements on the number of citizens it intends to target during the registration process.
The ECC, a non-partisan network of civil society organizations that monitors documents and reports on election issues, is intended to promote transparency and accountability in the democratic process.