LEON Observes Positive Elections

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The Liberia Elections Observation Network (LEON) says it observed positive voting and counting processes overall and continues to observe the tallying and post-election environment, according to a press release yesterday.

LEON is a platform of four Liberian Civil Society Organizations: The Catholic Justice and Peace Commission (JPC), Liberia Crusaders for Peace (LCP), Federation of Liberia Youth (FLY) and National Union of Organizations for the Disabled (NUOD), with the goal to meaningfully contribute to the democratization process in Liberia by providing an avenue for civil society to participate in monitoring and observing the 2017 elections.

LEON noted that there were problems with slow application of procedures, poor queue control and lack of direction for voters on which polling places they were assigned to.

“Although this led to long queues in many precincts on election day, Liberians exercised their vote in a generally calm manner.

“Tallying is ongoing around the country and it is positive that the NEC has started to issue partial results as they come in,” the release said.

LEON continues to monitor the tallying process in all centers around the country and notes that the process is extremely transparent for both party agents and observers.

LEON deployed 1,140 observers throughout Liberia before the election day. They were stationed in approximately half of all polling precincts and 20 percent of polling places.

“They observed opening, voting and the counting process sending findings on these different processes by text directly to a computer database. Reports are still arriving from remote areas and data verification is ongoing. This statement is based on the checked and verified reports from just over one-third of these observers.”

LEON said it issued two reports on election day on opening and voting. “LEON observers are still observing the tallying process in all centers around Liberia and LEON will release further statements based on their reports.

“LEON will also issue a final report once all its observers’ reports have been received which will include an analysis of the entire process from voter registration on wards.”

By the end of voting LEON observers assessed that the voting process was good or very good in 87 percent of polling stations observed. “This was a slight improvement on their morning assessment and can be linked to the fact that, in many places, the queues had subsided and the polling process was smoother in the afternoon.”

Voting procedures were generally observed to be followed correctly, which meant that important safeguards against multiple voting and intimidation such as checking fingers for ink, punching the voting card and voting in secret were in place.

Long queues were a problem in many polling stations observed and led to disorder and tensions in around 10 percent of precincts. Some queues were caused by the late opening of the polling places, mostly due to the late arrival of either polling materials or staff.

However, the majority of problems were caused by poor queue control, which was noted in 26 percent of polling places observed, and lack of clear identification of which polling place voters should go to. For instance, in Precinct 30097, Montserrado District 3, there were only two queue controllers for seven polling places. LEON Observers noted people leaving polling places without voting, and it is not known if they returned later and were able to exercise their right to vote.

Gender Vote

From the NEC gender control sheets in the polling places observed, approximately 52 percent of voters were women. There is thus the possibility that some men, who would not have had a preference in the queues, did not return to vote.

Poor line management also led to tensions in the precincts affected. However, the tensions only spilled over into violence in 13 of the polling precincts where LEON observers were stationed, which indicated the commitment of Liberians to a peaceful process.

Observers also reported interference by candidates or partisans in two precincts (33080 Nimba District 1 and 24003 Margibi District 4).

LEON Observers noted that on the average two of the polling staff were women. However, the Presiding Officer was a woman in only one-fifth of polling places observed.

“Polling staff followed procedures accurately and in full view of observers and party agents. However, they were often very meticulous, particularly during counting, which made the process very slow in some places.”

A small number of voters were missing from the Final Registration Roll in half of polling places observed. These were allowed to vote if their voter ID card numbers fell within the range assigned to the polling place, in accordance with procedures and added to the supplementary voters’ list. A few polling places had much larger numbers added to the list, sometimes as many as a third of all people voting. Special categories of people, such as security services and people working with the NEC or observer groups were allowed to vote at a different polling precinct to where they had registered and would account for some of these additions to the supplementary register. However, there were strong indications that not all inaccuracies in the voters’ list were resolved by the NEC prior to the election.

LEON conducted a person to list audit of the voter register during the week the Preliminary Registration Roll was exhibited and found that around 4 percent of the 3,033 voters checked were missing from the PRR.

“We will continue to follow issues with the FRR through tallying and will give further analysis in the final report.”

LEON noted that people still waited to vote in 78 polling places at 6.00 p.m., with the average being 37 people waiting.

In Bong County, Precinct 06017, 370 people were still waiting to vote, but LEON can confirm that the polling place stayed open until 12:30 a.m. until they had all voted.

Counting started immediately thereafter, in accordance with procedures, and finished at 7:30 a.m. on 11th.

Observers reported that 99 percent of the counts observed were conducted correctly, with 99 percent offering a clear view of the process to party agents and observers. LEON commends the NEC for having extremely transparent counting procedures.

About 92 percent of observers reported no irregularities or problems, and 91 percent rated the process as good or very good as a result. However, 5 percent of counts did not conduct the reconciliation of how many ballots were used prior to the opening of the ballot box and counting of ballots. Similarly, a record of count forms and the Presiding Officer’s worksheet were correctly completed in all but 4 percent of counts observed.

It said there were problems in 31 counting places of party agents interfering in the process and 5 incidences of minor violence.

Party agents were present during voting and/or counting in 97 percent polling places that LEON observed. Most commonly found were Unity Party (in 87 percent of polling places), ANC (84 percent), ALP (78 percent), LP (59 percent), CDC (55 percent), MOVEE (51 percent). Male party agents outnumbered women by 2 to 1 on the average. Unfortunately, party agents were reported to have tried to interfere in the process in 10 percent of polling places and 7 percent of counts observed.

Security

A security personnel was present at 96 percent of all polling stations and only on four occasions did security personnel enter a polling place when there was no disturbance.

LEON also noted that security forces played a positive role during the campaign period with most of the 382 rallies observed being conducted peacefully.

Physically Challenged, Elderly Voters

Persons with disabilities were 84 percent of polling places and were assessed as accessible to elderly or disabled voters. However, in the large cities, many polling places were on the first floor and voters with disabilities were not always assigned to these and had to be carried up.

The NEC is to be commended for printing tactile ballot guides for blind and partially sighted voters. These were present in polling stations for both presidential and representative ballots. LEON observers reported that blind voters were using the tactile ballot guides in half of all polling places. Most of the other polling places had no blind people come to vote indicating that blind voters frequently took up the option of voting for themselves. Voters can ask for assistance to vote from a person of their choice.

LEON observers noted that in 7 percent of polling stations a member of the polling staff assisted the voter, which is contrary to procedures.

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