By Alvin Worzi, Robin Dopoe, Jr, and George Harris
The Elections Coordinating Committee (ECC), has released its preliminary findings from 496 out of 498 nationwide polling centers and called on political parties, independent candidates and supporters to remain peaceful and desist from announcing elections results or claiming victory, and abide by the laws.
Oscar Bloh, chairman of the ECC Steering Committee, made the call yesterday at a press conference in Monrovia and urged political parties and independent candidates with grievances regarding the electoral process and results to follow the laws and procedures as enshrined in the electoral laws and regulations.
In the event of a runoff, chairman Bloh said: “The ECC encourages the contesting political parties to deploy trained agents to observe the voting, closing, counting and tallying of the results and to properly document their findings and avoid interfering with the process.”
He called on the NEC to provide timely and up-to-date information to voters during the tally process, including providing detailed information to the public on data entry and transmission of results at both the magistrate offices and national tally centers.
The ECC, meanwhile, called on the Supreme Court to expeditiously adjudicate all electoral related petitions, disputes, and grievances. “We want the Liberian National Police and other security agencies to continue to demonstrate neutrality and professionalism in dealing with electoral related matters,” he said.
“We also call on the media to continue to demonstrate a high degree of professionalism on how they report on results of the elections. They must also remain conflict sensitive in reporting on all electoral disputes.”
He also called on civil society organizations to continue to engage citizens to remain peaceful during the announcement of results; and if there is a second round, to provide civic education to citizens ensure a peaceful and smooth transition of power.
In a related development, The Carter Center said the election process enhanced the growing role of youth, providing them with opportunities to observe and engage through civil society organizations involved in the election process. This has made a positive impact on conflict prevention, it added.
In the spirit of respect and support, The Carter Center offered the National Election Commission the following “short-term recommendations that could lead to significant improvements:
- “The NEC has acknowledged difficulties with long lines and queue management at polling precincts on Election Day. Given this, if there is a runoff, we recommend that the NEC offer polling precinct staff enhanced instruction on these issues before the second round.
- “It is crucial that voters be able to easily identify their polling stations. We suggest giving this information at the entrance to the polling precinct in a manner that is clear to all voters before the voter begins to stand in line for a particular polling place.”
- The Carter Center noted that NEC officials were proactive in visiting polling stations to resolve problems on Election Day, and “we encourage the NEC to continue to react promptly as issues arise throughout the tabulation process.”
- “Transparency is crucial to the election process, and we urge the NEC to continue efforts to ensure the tabulation process is transparent at all levels and the public is provided the information it needs to fully understand the process,” The Carter Center said, adding that prompt release of results is an effective means of building confidence among the electorate and preventing confusion and tension.
- To this end, The Carter Center urged the NEC to release provisional results, including a clear indication of the counties and percentage of precincts reporting.
Samantha Smoot, the mission director for the National Democratic Institute (NDI), noted that they observed that the transfer of materials from voting precincts to Magistrate Offices was not done according to procedures or in a secure manner in some locations.
Madam Smoot added: “In some places, materials were taken and stored at Magistrate Office warehouses overnight, and then intake processes were begun at the tallying centers on the morning of October 11.”
Madam Smoot also said the many precincts with multiple polling places lacked clear signs to direct voters to the correct queues.
“This led to confusion about which line to join. Where there were precinct queue controllers, some were not effective in directing voters to the correct queue.
“Processing of voters was slow and inconsistent in some locations and at some polling places a number of voters with valid registration cards were not found on the voter roll,” she said.
“These voters were allowed to cast ballots, and their names were written on an additional list. Also, there was a lack of clarity about the procedures on how to manage voters with registration cards that were not found on the roll, which slowed the process in those locations and underscored earlier concerns that the training for poll workers did not sufficiently address procedures for voter identification,” the NDI mission director said.
On recommendations, she said the NEC should verify provisional results as they come in and release them in a timely fashion to enhance citizen confidence in the transmission and tabulation process.
She added that polling place-level results must be placed in an easily analyzable (machine-readable) format on the NEC website.
Madam Smoot also implored the NEC to provide clear, frequent updates to the public as a means of enhancing transparency in the transmission and tabulation of final results, and “Adjudicate complaints and disputes addressed to the NEC in an expeditious, transparent, and impartial manner. Refine and clarify procedures for polling officials to manage voters with registration cards that are not found on the roll, and ensure voter identification officers are provided clear, written instructions on those procedures.”