Says mentality of the average Liberian is not in the interest of growth
The chairman of the National Elections Commission (NEC), Jerome George Korkoya, has blamed indiscipline and wickedness on the part of voters for the huge number of invalid votes in the October 10 poll.
“Many deliberately caused invalid votes. They did not do it out of ignorance or illiteracy as it appears,” Korkoya claimed.
Addressing journalists at the Commission’s regular weekly election update in Monrovia yesterday, Korkoya said the sample ballot paper has only three signs, “namely an ‘X’, a Nike sign, and a Thumbprint,” adding that the same signs were also on the original ballot papers.
“Every voter, on the basis of his or her education or simple understanding, was required to use any one of the three signs while voting, but people intentionally chose to misuse the ballot papers,” he said.
Out of the 1,641,922 votes cast across the country, 88,574 accounted for invalid votes.
Comments from citizens in newspapers and on radio and other media sources suggest that the NEC did not effectively carry out a substantial civic voter education (CVE). In response to the public notion, Korkoya said the mentality of the average Liberian is not in the interest of growth.
“Some marked on all the photos of the 20 presidential candidates, while others did not mark anyone at all,” Korkoya said, noting that others wrote words such as “repent” and “criminal” on the photos of certain legislative and presidential candidates.
Measures to curtail challenges at runoff
Based on lessons learned from the first-round of the elections, the NEC boss said, “In response to the congestion at polling places and in some cases slow processing times experienced during the Election Day, the NEC has decided to increase the number of queue controllers after training them. We especially appeal to those with strong numerical skills, including university students, to apply.”
He added that voters should return to the polling places or rooms where they voted on October 10.
“In precincts with three or higher polling places, the NEC will post relevant parts of the voter register index on the walls or entrances of each polling place for voters to locate their details. Where possible, the Commission will also have an offline version of the relevant parts of the voter register available to key polling staff to check details. The online system too will continue to be available,” Korkoya noted. He said voters can check their details by calling 1847 from their mobile phones where necessary.
Recounts, Complaints and Appeals
Korkoya said the NEC will do a recount of the Nimba County Electoral District #8 election. “This is due to the fact that the difference in votes between the two leading candidates was only 19 and under the rules of the NEC such a difference triggers an automatic recount,” he said.
He said a total of 56 election related complaints were submitted to the NEC; and of that number, 54 were filed at the various magistrate offices. The NEC chairman said 33 of the cases have been concluded, but that some of them have led to further appeals to the NEC Board of Commissioners.
“Hearing has commenced into the complaint filed by the All Liberian Party and the complaint is challenging the conduct of the presidential elections,” he noted, adding that on October 23, the Liberty Party (LP) also petitioned for a rerun of the October 10 elections and the suspension of the planned second round runoff on November 7.
Ballot papers for the runoff
“Presidential ballot papers for the runoff election are tentatively scheduled to arrive on October 28. All ballots are being produced by the same supplier from Slovenia that printed ballots for the first round elections,” Korkoya said, adding that mock ballots for training purposes have already arrived.
He, meanwhile, admonished the political parties in the runoff to be represented at all polling places. “Be reminded that you need to train your agents thoroughly in their roles at polling places and they are not to interfere with the process. And if there is a complaint, make sure it is understood the agents should make that complaint at the polling place level and collect the evidence required for a thorough complaint to be submitted,” he said.
He called on all political parties, their supporters and other citizens to act responsibly. “There is no place in an election for threatening words or behavior. A direct threat to the Commissioners by someone on social media has been reported to the appropriate authorities,” he noted, adding that the media should reinforce efforts in separating news from opinions in their reporting.
“Unfounded claims are not helpful to the election process and the NEC calls on all journalists to check their facts before publication and if required contact our press department for information on an issue so the full story they may need will be made available,” he suggested.
Korkoya, meanwhile, criticized the Daily Observer for its Wednesday (yesterday) editorial which speculated that the huge number of invalid votes came about because NEC executives recruited their friends, relatives and family members across the country to handle the affairs of the elections.