Polling staff, observers, Liberian National Police, Immigration officers, NEC officials and the PRESS were up half of the night counting ballots and tallying those that were completed, leading to NEC’s announcement of who will be Liberia’s next president and district representatives. Though alert, everyone was physically beat.
There were many challenges to polling staff and observers as night fell. The major one was the lack of electricity in the Duala community where it seemed a limited number of voters cast their ballots. There was insufficient light for everyone to see across the room, but enough to see what ballot the polling staff was holding up. Two observers stood near ballots boxes holding certified lamps that never seemed to lose their glow as the polling staff held up each ballot and shouted out the result.
Every once in a while, laughter would erupt in the ‘counting’ rooms when an invalid vote was announced. It’s alleged that there were more than 6,000 invalid votes across the country, though not confirmed by the NEC.
What made observers and others laugh at some of the invalid votes was the time the voters took to slap democracy in the face. “Everyone has the right to his/her vote, but instead some voters wasted it drawing stupid things across the ballot,’ a NEC official covering Saint Mary’s Catholic Senior High School polling center stated.
Invalid votes, as they are known technically, are ballots that are filled out incorrectly, according to NEC guidelines. Before the election, NEC and other groups went around sensitizing the public on the voting process including what would be considered an invalid ballot.
It seemed as if thousands missed out on the information.
“Some people chose not to exercise their civic right to vote and the way they went about showing that is hilarious and somewhat entertaining. But thank God they were not too many, or it would have caused some noise,” added the NEC official.
Among three invalid ballots which burst the crowd into laughter, was one tracing the check box that is already positioned on the ballot paper.
“It’s as if they weren’t sure of who to vote for and didn’t want people to know, so they traced the box,” stated Ansu, an observer for the Unity Party.
Another hilarious occurrence was the invalid ballots that had candidates’ names spelled out in signature or cursive writing.
“This clearly indicates they had no intention of having their votes counted,” another observer said.
According to the NEC guidelines, (1)Ballot papers shall be disallowed and included in the number of question ballots in the following circumstances: Section: 4.13 : Question Ballots (a) If there is no mark in favor of any candidate on the front of the ballot paper; (b) If the voter has voted for more than one (1) candidate for the same post; (c) If there is any writing, signature or words on the ballot paper other than the mark for the candidate; and (d) If the position of the mark for the candidate on the ballot paper is such that it is not clear as for which candidate the voter intended to vote.