The much awaited nationwide voter registration (VR) began yesterday, but reports indicated low turnout at many stations and delays in starting the enrollment process due to the late arrival of registration materials at the various centers.
A tour by the Daily Observer to several centers in Monrovia and its environs disclosed that VR materials arrived at about 1p.m. in central Monrovia. However, some centers in Gardnerville, on Somalia Drive received the voting materials around 10 a.m.
Furthermore many people complained that after the materials were delivered they still spent more than two hours waiting to be registered at several of the VR centers in spite of the low turnout.
“I came here at 1p.m., but look at the time. It is now 3p.m. and I am not registered,” said a frustrated man at the AGM center on the corner of Broad and Buchanan Streets.
Many observers told this newspaper that turnout on the first day of the VR was low because people believe that they still have until March 7, the last day for registering, therefore they have enough time to get the process done.
At the Jorkpeh Town market in Sinkor, a team of registration workers told those who arrived early to come back later when the materials were available.
Another difficulty at the AGM center on Buchanan Street was the failure of one of the cameras to work therefore two VR centers had to depend on one camera. “They told us the camera is not working and sent us to the other center,” one VR staff told the Daily Observer.
The NEC has long prepared for the Feb. 1to March 7 exercise, posting messages and billboards across the country, but with the early problems of delays and logistics, many people are worried about how successful the process will be.
“We hope the NEC will ensure an effective VR process because it said about 2.5 million Liberians are supposed to go through it,” said one registrant.
NEC chairman, Cllr. Jerome Korkoyah, however informed the public of the measures taken to ensure a successful VR process. “We earlier set aside 1,780 voter registration centers across the country, but realizing that the number was still not enough to reduce the long travel distance (to VR centers) , the
NEC added 300 more centers to ease the burden of people having to travel too far from home to a registration site,” he said.
He reported that a total of 416 registration supervisors, 8,400 registration staff, 438 civic voter educators and 219 gender mobilizers (responsible to encourage women to register) have been trained and deployed across the country.
Cllr. Korkoyah also made known that 108 Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), Community Based Organizations (CBOs) and Faith Based Organizations (FBOs) have been hired by the NEC and development partners to disseminate CVE messages on the VR process.
Some of the other registration centers visited by this newspaper included those in Gardnersville, William G. Kpoleh Memorial High school, St. Michael’s Catholic High School, Janice Preparatory School, and St. Francis High School in Jacob Town, Monrovia Vocational Training Institute (MVTC), the St.
Francis High School in District #2 and the William Booth Salvation Army High School in District #3 of Montserrado, among others.
At the St. Francis High School (Montserrado District #2), several old people, including the visually impaired and other disabled persons and the sick complained of not being given attention.
“I came here at 6:25 this morning and it is some minutes after 2p.m. and I have not been registered,” said 70 year old Martha Jacob.
John Y. G. King, 65, said he suffers from hypertension (high blood pressure) and being at the registration site for so long was not good for him.
Reports received from other parts of the country, including Karnplay and Buutuo in Nimba County, the VR mirrored the same challenges in Monrovia with the late arrival of registrars and registration materials.
There were also concerns of security at the various centers. “This morning some friends got into a fight over position in the queue therefore the NEC should work along with the Liberia National Police,” a man who identified himself as Harris, suggested.
NEC officials were not available at the centers to address the concerns raised and calls made to the Commission’s Acting Director of Communications, Mr. Joseph T. Nyensuah, were not returned.
Meanwhile, Cllr. Korkoyah, repeated on Tuesday that all Liberian citizens who have attained the age of 18 and above should turn up and register to vote.
Cllr. Korkoyah, on another note, warned that the NEC has with immediate effect called for an end to pre-election campaign activities.
“As of today, all political parties who will be caught in raising banners, distributing flyers or using any other campaign means will have the NEC to contend with because they will be deregistered, sent to jail for six months and subsequently disqualified from participating in the ensuing national elections based on the gravity of each offense,” Cllr. Korkoyah warned.
He called for an end to the numerous political rallies characterized by the wearing of T-shirts, printing of flyers, blocking of streets with parades by politicians and their respective supporters to showcase their strength and popularity.
Cllr. Korkoyah said it is unfair for people to begin to put up banners, flyers and posters aimed at promoting themselves when campaign season has not been declared open.
Concerning the Lofa County District #1 by-election, Cllr. Korkoyah assured voters that all preparations were in place to conduct the poll on February 28.