ECC Urges NEC to Probe Pre-marked Ballots

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Chairman Bloh along with IREDD boss and others at the conference yesterday.

-Warns stakeholders against announcing own results

The Elections Coordinating Committee (ECC) says it is concerned about reports on social media of pre-marked ballots in some places and called on the National Elections Commission (NEC) to speedily investigate and ensure that the findings are published.

Oscar Bloh, chairman of the ECC, in the committee’s midday report yesterday on the runoff election from 475 of 498 polling places – proportionally nationwide – said though the ECC’s observers are yet to report such incidents, it is important for the NEC to rapidly launch an investigation and update the public.

Generally, Bloh said reports from ECC observers indicate that the opening process was peaceful, orderly, and proceeded smoothly across the country.

He said the ECC National Information Center is collecting critical incident reports from all deployed observers, “and we will continue to collect and process these reports.”

Mo Ali, the spokesperson for the ruling Unity Party campaign team, alleged that NEC workers handed voters pre-marked ballots with ‘candidate two’ already marked.

“We call on all persons encountering this situation to immediately file a complaint and also demand a new ballot paper. If possible, photograph the pre-marked ballot,” Ali said.
According to him, the situation was reported at the Monrovia Vocational Training Center and from other places around the country.

But the National Elections Commission said the information coming from Mo Ali is false and malicious. According to the commission, ink was transferred to the ballot paper while the ballot paper issuer was trying to stamp it.

However, the ballot was marked squarely with a finger print in the designated box of the ‘candidate two’, causing many to doubt the possibility of it being a mistaken ballot as claimed by the NEC.

The information, which is posted on the NEC’s official website, said the ballot paper in question was displayed to all present and marked spoiled and placed in a specified envelope.

Bloh said the ECC has deployed 1,100 trained and accredited observers, partly made up of 89 mobile observers and 982 polling place observers, covering all 73 electoral districts of Liberia.

He, however, called on political parties to refrain from making any premature announcement of results and to channel their grievances through the appropriate legal and regulatory frameworks.

“ECC calls on the NEC to investigate reports of pre-marked ballot papers and timely provide information on the outcome of these investigations,” Bloh recommended. He called on the media to continue to be responsible when reporting on challenges facing the process.

The ECC report, which focused on the set-up and opening of polling places, said although percentages reported reflect percentages of polling places observed and are not statistically representative of the country as a whole, but they provide credible data on emerging national trends.

According to chairman Bloh, the ECC has received 96 percent of reports from its 498 rapid response observers.

He said the majority of the missing reports come from areas experiencing poor network coverage in certain areas, including Gbarpolu 02, Nimba 9, Grand Gedeh 02 and Grand Cape Mount 1, adding, “We will expect these reports to come in at the end of the day.”

Chairman Bloh said ECC observers reported that voting generally commenced on time in most polling places.

“By 8:30 a.m., 96 percent of observed polling places had opened. Another 3 percent had opened by 10 a.m. For the October polls, ECC observers reported that 80 percent observed polling places opened by 8:30 a.m. and another 19 percent opened by 10 a.m.,” he said.

The ECC chairman said observers reported that all sensitive materials, including ballots, ballot stamps, indelible ink, the final registration roll and the record of the counting forms were available at 99 percent of the polling places at 8 a.m.

“It was observed that 88 percent of polling places had all five NEC staff present during the set-up. This is an improvement from the October elections when the ECC observers reported that 80 percent of observed polling places had all five NEC staff present,” he said.

Bloh said the ECC’s observation effort takes advantage of advanced information and communication technologies to receive timely reports from its observers.

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