A commissioner at the National Elections Commission (NEC), Cllr. Jonathan K. Weedor, has in no uncertain terms rejected the June 14 pronouncement by NEC Executive Chairman, Jerome G. Korkoya, that people with valid voter ID cards will vote on October 10, even if their names and other details were not identified during the voters roll exhibition.
“It is important to emphasize that the essence of the voters roll exhibition exercise is to provide individuals who participated in the voter registration exercise the opportunity to vet the provisional roll aimed at establishing a final registration roll that is reliable and credible,” Cllr. Weedor said.
He noted further that there are several problems associated with the present provisional roll ranging from the omission of hundreds, if not thousands, of names to missing photos and profiles of registrants.
In his position statement on June 15 in Monrovia, Weedor said Korkoya’s statement concerning people voting on October 10 without establishing all relevant voter information about them is alarming, disturbing, and troubling because a reliable and credible final registration role (FRR) is a cardinal requirement of every free, fair and transparent election.
“In fact, the essence of every voter registration exercise is to establish a voter roll that can account for every eligible voter who participated in the voter registration exercise. And so the relevance of a reliable voters roll in every electoral process cannot be overemphasized because the absence of said roll is an open gate to fraud,” he noted.
The NEC executive said any action or pronouncement that has the potential to understate the relevance of a reliable voter roll must be discouraged because said endeavor is a recipe for chaos.
“In this regard and as a matter of principle, I wish to dissociate myself from the pronouncement of chairman Korkoya as it relates to the possibility of a huge number of individuals with voter cards being permitted to vote when their names, photos, and other particulars are not on the final registration roll (FRR),” he said.
The Elections Coordinating Committee (ECC) was the first to raise concern about the NEC Chairman’s pronouncement, citing “a need for answers to some critical questions by the NEC.”
The day after Cllr. Korkoya made the statement, the ECC, through its chairman Oscar Bloh, expressed its disappointment at Korkoya’s remark and recommended “that the NEC shoulders the responsibility to let the Liberian people know how many registered voters’ names and photos are missing from the 2,080 voter registration centers,” he said.
According to Bloh, NEC needs to provide an explanation to the citizens on how the names and photos of registered voters got missing from the PRR. “The ECC is calling for a full investigation on whether this emerging problem emanated from the voter registration centers during the scanning of the forms, the printing of the PRR, or a combination of all of the above,” he said.
Interestingly, no political parties have released any statement concerning the NEC Chairman’s unilateral decision, which will no doubt affect their chances at the October polls.
In fact, only one political aspirant, Josiah F. Joekai, has spoken out against the pronouncement, saying it “cannot in any way be taken lightly since many Liberians stand to be disenfranchised…” He made reference to the numerous reported cases of illegal voter registration activities that took place using NEC registration materials in some instances, highlighting the plausibility that forgery may have taken place.
“Thus, no one doubts the possibility of the use of hundreds or thousands of forged Voter Registration Cards in October given the capacity issue that remains a challenge for the Commission,” Joekai predicts, adding, “This matter is grave and one that requires prompt and practical solution.”
It is not clear whether other NEC Commissioners were informed by Korkoya beforehand of his decision. However, Commissioner Weedor said he was taken aback by Korkoya’s pronouncement and could not recall any emergency meeting held by the Board of Commissioners at the NEC held before the announcement was made by the chairman.
“I called the magistrates in my areas of oversight (Nimba and Bong counties) and they confirmed the unprecedented and alarming situation of the omission of names from the roll and other associated problems. Upon my arrival at the office, I proceeded to the office of chairman Korkoya and inquired what was the information available to him relating to the exhibition exercise, and he responded that he has received information from around the country relating to the omission of some names from the roll,” Weedor said.
He said in the presence of the NEC executive director, Lamin Lighe, Korkoya indicated that there will be a press conference at 4pm to inform the public of the magnitude of the problem, and to assure them that the commission was working around the clock to address the problems, but was shocked when the NEC head said there will be no problem to vote for legislators and the president even if a person’s name and photos were not reflected in the FRR.
“Since my association with the NEC, dating back to March 2004, I have endeavored to contribute my quota to the consolidation of our young democracy aimed at protecting our hard-won peace. This commitment shall remain unshakable during these elections and the days beyond,” he noted.
“In a credible electioneering process, deception is not possible because numbers don’t lie and the facts are always unraveled no matter what,” Joekai warned. “Thus, it is better to divulge the reality now with respect to the current state of the voters roll rather than present a roll that does not reflect the actual number of voters in possession of Voter Registration Cards at the polls in October.”