… on Voter Roll Update
The National Elections Commission (NEC) has written the Press Union of Liberia requesting its assistance to conduct civic education on the Voter Roll Update expected to kickoff on September 11, 2020 in preparation of the impending mid-term senatorial election.
Already launched on August 21, the civic and voter education program is expected to continue until the end of the exercise on September 25.
Two contentious aspects of the Voter Roll Update process are already being raised by stakeholders. First, is the fact that the NEC will not limit new voter registrations to people who have just reached the age of 18, since the 2017 election. The other point of contention is that already registered voters will be allowed to change location from where they registered during the 2017 elections, to a new location of their choice which, some stakeholders warn, is highly likely to encourage vote trucking, which many politicians are accustomed to in an election.
The election, due to some constraints beyond the control of the Commission has been scheduled for December 8, 2020 instead of the regular October schedule.
According to the letter addressed to the PUL by the NEC, dated August 25, 2020, “The purpose of this communication is to kindly request the PUL to assist in informing and educating the Liberian people about the impending Voter Roll Update exercise slated for September 11-25, 2020.”
On the information about the Voter Roll Update, the NEC underscored that the VRU will be done using 600 mobile teams which will cover all 2080 registration centers or voting precincts; each team covering at most four centers spending three days at a center and then moving to the next. The registration centers will open at 8:00 a.m. and closing 5 p.m., and the movement plans for mobile teams finalized and being a key subject for voter information.
Specific cases to follow as indicated in the education message including Liberian citizens with the age of 18 and above since the 2017 election to be registered to vote in the impending election; eligible citizens who were out of the country or, for some reasons, during the 2017 voter registration having the opportunity to be registered, registered voters having the opportunity to transfer or change their voting locations based on where they reside; those with lost or damaged voter ID cards to have the opportunity to replace them, and registered voters to have the chance to verify their information.
The alternative to change location in the registration process is highly likely to encourage vote trucking that many politicians are accustomed to in an election, an expert observed.
In order to ascertain whether or not a person has reached a voting age, registrars also have the right to ask the concerned person for identification documents including passport, National ID card, birth certificate, or certificate of naturalization. Also, the registrars may require of a person to bring two persons for a sworn testimony to affirm the applicant’s eligibility, or a traditional leader who is a voter can appear in person to confirm an applicant’s eligibility.
According to the NEC, failure on the part of an applicant to provide those pieces of information, he or she will be denied registration during the update, and all applicants going for the update will be required to follow health protocols instituted by the health authorities amid the presence of COVID-19.
Meanwhile, the NEC, with low or no publicity, has held a stakeholder meeting in Gbarnga, Bong County, where traditional elders and county Superintendents converged and pledged their support to work with the NEC in ensuring that the election in December goes well.
With the holding of this meeting, some coming across the information in the media on August 31, 2020 questioned the NEC why it could not consider political parties and independent candidates that are the main stakeholders in an election but Superintendents and local elders.
It may be recalled that early this year President George Weah began using is constitutional power to replace county Superintendents with those who are loyal to the ruling party with the hope that their presence in leadership would help to influence voters in the various counties for the CDC.
It is not clear whether the PUL has responded to the NEC’s request, which was only received on the afternoon of Monday, August 31.