Elders, Disabled Faced Challenges to Vote

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Pilate Johnson, a member of the steering committee reads the press statement, while Julie Endee and LEON staff listen.

-LEON reports on just-ended Montserrado County by-elections

The Liberia Elections Observation Network (LEON) says almost 20 percent of polling places were not accessible for persons with disability and the elderly.

At a news conference on Monday, July 29, 2019 in Monrovia, LEON said observers witnessed two separate incidents of fights between voters in the queue, one involving a senior government official, but thanks to the police for the rapid response.

LEON said 239 observers deployed for the Montserrado Senatorial and Representative by-elections provided the reports that were submitted before 1.00 p.m. yesterday.

“In Logan Town, District #15, a man was arrested for trying to vote twice.

Three voters at Marvii Sonii school, District #14, were denied the votes despite having found their names on the voters’ list exhibited at the Precinct,” LEON said in its “preliminary findings.”

LEON continued: “Voters needing assistance were observed in one third of polling places. They were mostly helped to mark their ballots by a person of their choice, as per the polling procedures. However, in 17 polling places observed, a member of the polling staff assisted them.”

LEON said the majority of polling places opened on time, however, 18 percent opened more than half an hour late due to either missing polling materials or late polling staffs.

“All six polling places in Duport Road, Baptist Church, Precinct 30120, opened after 10 a.m. due to rain destroying the tarpaulin roof. Polling staffs worked together to reconstruct it,” LEON observed.

LEON said turnout was generally low, due primarily to the morning rain.

LEON said their observers noted that some voters were not aware of the new election date and, “despite lack of queues, poor line management was still observed in 13 polling precincts.”

“Opening procedures were generally followed correctly as were polling procedures. The new instruction to polling staffs as National Elections Commission (NEC) chairman announced on Monday to call out each voter’s name as they are identified, was not generally or consistently followed,” LEON said.

LEON said party agents were often reminding the voter identification officer to call the names, and were not being permitted to stand near the ballot places to verify the names for themselves; though LEON had welcomed the new procedures from the NEC, especially given the new attacks on the credibility of the Commission. So it is disappointing that many of the staffs were not properly instructed. Despite this, LEON observers rate 90 percent of polling places as “good or very good.”

LEON has deployed 17 long term observers across all districts of Montserrado County, and a core team of five analysts from June 5 to present.

They have been observing the work of the election commission, replacement of lost and damaged cards, the campaign and holding meetings with the candidates. LEON has also been observing the general political environment and monitoring political posts across Facebook and statements in the press.

Launched in May 2017, LEON is a platform of the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission (JPC), Liberia Crusaders for Peace (LCP), Federation of Liberia Youth (FLY) and the National Union of Organizations for the Disabled (NUOD), with the goal to meaningfully contribute to the democratic processes.

LEON observed the 2017 elections with over 1,000 observers and has observed subsequent by-elections.

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