Members of the House of Representatives voted yesterday to endorse a report from the Committee on Election and Inauguration not to set a new electoral threshold for the 2017 Presidential and Legislative Elections and have written the Senate for its concurrence.
The Chairman of the House Committee on Election and Inauguration, Rep. Gabriel B. Smith said in his report that on the basis of history and electoral tradition, quoting Article 80 (d) and (e) of the 1986 Constitution, it is assumed that a threshold should serve two regular periods of six years and in so doing it would be lawfully incorrect and politically troublesome for the 53rd Legislature to prescribe a new threshold on the basis of a census report for which the 52nd Legislature had already passed on a resolution.
“After a careful examination of the request through a series of committee hearings and external consultations, the committee is convinced, that it would be legally unprecedented and politically inappropriate to prescribe a threshold on the basis of a census report that our legislative predecessors acted upon by a Joint Resolution; clearly instructing the NEC to maintain the sixty four electoral districts and add nine new seats reflecting an upward population in of the five counties,” Rep. Smith said.
It may be recalled that the National Elections Commission (NEC) wrote the House of Representatives and the Senate seeking an electoral threshold on which it will conduct the 2017 General Elections.
In a letter dated July 19, 2016 addressed to Speaker J. Alex Tyler, NEC Chairman Jerome Korkoya recalled that in 2010, the Legislature passed a Joint Resolution LEG-002 (2010) which set a special electoral threshold for the 2011 General Elections.
According to Chairman Korkoya that threshold maintained the sixty-four electoral districts used by NEC to conduct the 2005 General Elections; added nine more electoral districts, thereby establishing a total of seventy-three (73) electoral districts; and mandated NEC to reapportion the districts accordingly.
“Pursuant to the authority granted it by both Joint Resolution LEG-002 and the Constitution of Liberia, the NEC reapportioned the seventy-three electoral districts provided for under Joint Resolution LEG-002, and the 2011 General Elections were also conducted accordingly.”
As the special threshold of Joint Resolution LEG-002 was limited to the 2011 General Elections, the NEC letter informed the Legislature that it will need a new threshold from that body for the 2017 General Elections, scheduled to be held on October 10, 2017.
The national electoral body noted that Section 1(b) of Joint Resolution LEG-002 states, among other things, “that following the 2011 General Elections, arrangements will be made for the conduct of a national housing and population census.”
If the census referred to in section 1(b) of the Joint Resolution LEG-002 is unlikely to be conducted before the holding of the 2017 General Elections, the NEC submits that in order for it to satisfy the requirements of Article 80 (d & e) of the Constitution, and the principle of equal representation, the threshold for holding the 2017 General Elections should be based on the population figures released from the 2008 National Population and Housing Census.”
Article 80 (e) and (d) of the Constitution say: “Each constituency shall have an approximately equal population of 20,000, or such number of citizens as the legislature shall prescribe in keeping with population growth and movements as revealed by a national census; provided that the total number of electoral constituencies in the Republic shall not exceed one hundred. (e) Immediately following a national census and before the next election, the Elections Commission shall reapportion the constituencies in accordance with the new population figures so that every constituency shall have as close to the same population as possible; provided, however, that a constituency must be solely within a county.”