The chairman of the National Elections Commission (NEC), Jerome G. Korkoya, yesterday refuted speculations that he and his co-workers recently met with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf ‘secretly’ to discuss a couple of issues, including the management of the October 10 election results.
Addressing journalists at the Commission’s seventh regular weekly elections update, Korkoya said while it is true that he and his colleagues, as well as some partners of the NEC, met with President Sirleaf before her trip to New York, their encounter was held in the open.
“The Commission represented by me and some of my colleagues took the 19 NEC magistrates to the president’s home so she could reemphasize her call on us to manage the affairs of the elections with transparency, accountability, and fairness,” he said.
He stated that the essence of the President’s meeting with the magistrates before her trip to the UN Headquarters was for them to be “direct beneficiaries of the resounding call for all of us to ensure that there is a historic election process which we all will certainly be proud of as citizens.”
“We met with the president in her yard at her home at the time the magistrates had completed their training here in Monrovia in legal reporting on elections and proper and careful management of their results. Rumors stating that we ill-discussed the ensuing elections are diabolical lies,” he said.
Touching on other issues, Korkoya said the recruitment of poll workers has been completed and their training is ongoing.
“The number of temporary and permanent election staff working on these elections is 29,200. There are 73 electoral districts across the 15 counties and 2,080 electoral precincts and 5,390 polling places,” he said.
He added that the Liberia National Police and other paramilitary services, including Fire Brigade, Immigration, DEA will deploy 6,000 officers across the country on Election Day and will include at least two officers to a precinct and escorts for election materials as well as safeguarding the materials at designated storage sites.
“As of now, over 3,500 national citizen observers will be deployed and 200 regional and international election observers will observe the elections. The regional and international organizations include The African Union, ECOWAS, Carter Center, NDI, and EU,” he said, noting further that diplomatic missions that will also observe the elections include the United States, Japan and other embassies.
“They all have applied for accreditation and we hope to take care of them as soon as possible,” Korkoya noted, admonishing all observers, national, regional and international to be very impartial in the discharge of their duties and report all preliminary results and other reports to the public accurately.
He said in accordance with Section 22 and Sub-section 22.3 of the Elections Laws of the country, the final voter registry has been completed and distributed among the 19 magistrates of the 15 political sub-divisions.
He further said that the distribution of the final registry to all political parties has also commenced.
About the SMS text service attached to the 2017 elections, he said: “It is now active and live.” This service is intended for voters to check their election details, including polling/precinct center, age, and voter ID #. All the voter has to do is text his or her voter card number to 1847 and he or she will receive details on where he or she will vote, Korkoya said.
On election materials, he said a total of 100,000 mock ballots for each election and 1,210 tactile ballots are already in the country and being used for training purposes.
“The 3,053,435 presidential and 3,112,725 legislative ballot papers are scheduled to start arriving in Liberia on September 24,” he said, adding that there is a five and three percent contingency included in the respective amounts in line with international best practice, and 30,000 tactile ballots will also be delivered for the visually impaired voters.
“Prepacked polling kits have arrived in the country on the 17th of this month and a second batch on the 19th of this same month. Polling booths arrived on the 17th of this month and we will begin dispatching them on the 28th of this month.
“Sample ballot papers have so far been produced for five of the 15 counties: Grand Cape Mount, Grand Bassa, Bomi, Gbarpolu, and Montserrado,” Korkoya said, noting that sample ballots for the remaining 10 counties will be ready this week, probably today.
He called on the qualified political parties to collect their allotment from the political affairs section of the NEC.
He said the local distribution of the materials will be challenging but the Commission will exert efforts to dispatch them to all voting centers across the country.
“Be it by road, canoes, motorbikes or any other safe and convenient transportation means, we will make sure that no part of the country is left without the election materials on election day,” he said.
He noted that the NEC has appealed to UNMIL to provide assistance in the form of air transport to get the materials to hard to reach areas.
“I am pleased to announce that UNMIL has agreed to assist the Commission through said means. We are grateful to the SRSG and his corps of officers at the helm of UNMIL leadership here for always being supportive of our efforts to do the right things for our beloved country,” he stated.
“Training of polling and elections staff started on September 13, with a training program for 42 county-level trainers. On September 22nd the training for 416 electoral supervisors will commence. Training of 11,000 presiding officers and voter identification officers is scheduled to start on September 29,” he said, noting that in the first week of October, about 17,000 polling station staff will be trained in procedures and areas related to their specific tasks on election day.
He applauded the Angie Brooks International Center for assisting and collaborating with the NEC in training all the 19 magistrates on improving and strengthening their capacity to handle complaints and appeals at the county level.
“With our partners (UNDP), The Commission is conducting further training this week with the National Bar Association, political party representatives and media and civil society to increase understanding of the complaints and appeals process aimed at improving the quality of complaints that we may receive,” he noted.