Denies reports of cheating and new voter registration
Authorities at the National Elections Commission(NEC) have once again come under the spotlight all for the wrong reasons — the delay beyond the Constitutionally prescribed period for the holding of the by-elections to fill vacancies in both Houses of the Legislature, which were created by the deaths of Montserrado County Senator, Geraldine Doe Sheriff and Representative Adolph A. Lawrence of Montserrado Country District #15.
For reasons which are not explicitly clear, the by-elections for both Houses have been postponed for the second time. This newspaper recalls that although the Constitution provides that the leadership of each House should within a 30-day period notify the NEC in case of a vacancy in any of the two bodies, the leadership of the Senate did not, as Article 37 of the Constitution provides, officially notify the NEC of the existing vacancy until April 8, 2019, nearly a month following the death of Montserrado County Senator Geraldine Doe-Sheriff on February 10, 2019.
This development, according to ANC leader Alexander Cummings, was in violation of the 30-day period prescribed by the Constitution.
Article 37 of the Constitution entitled: By-Election to Fill Vacancy reads thus:
“In the event of a vacancy in the Legislature caused by death, resignation, expulsion or otherwise, the presiding officer shall within 30 days notify the Elections Commission thereof. The Elections Commission shall not later than 90 days thereafter cause a by election to be held; provided that where such vacancy occurs within 90 days prior to the holding of general elections, the filling of the vacancy shall await the holding of such general elections.”
Further, according to Cummings, the NEC and the Government of Liberia (GoL) have no justifiable excuse for postponing the elections since according to him, factors cited as reasons for the postponement of the elections were well known in advance to the NEC, as well as to the government, noting that such were not conditions beyond the control of both NEC and the GoL.
He further noted that reasons cited by NEC, that is delay in provision of funding and late arrival of elections materials are all self-created with the intent to rig the elections and steal the results.
Since the announced postponement, the Daily Observer has received from informed sources several reports suggestive of attempts by NEC officials to rig the elections. According to informed sources, the integrity of the voters registry, long a contentious issue is suspect, because it is the same compromised registry used during the 2017 elections.
Those rolls, according to sources, were never cleaned-up as directed by the Supreme Court, although the Court chose to look the other way when its mandate to do so was deliberately ignored by NEC Chairman Jerome Korkoya without any repercussions.
Informed NEC sources further told this newspaper that a sum of US$400,000 was dished out to a certain individual (name withheld) to procure election kits from China, instead of Ghana, as previously done. But, according to sources, the said individual instead went to Accra for a holiday treat.
This, according to sources, prompted NEC Chairman Korkoya to fly into Accra to hasten things as well as to bring things under control. When initially contacted, late last week for comment on reports suggesting the elections would have been postponed, NEC acting information officer, Prince Dunbar, declared that the elections were on course, and that any suggestions to the contrary were not true.
When the Daily Observer contacted him concerning reports of a group of men, who had showed up at the NEC 9th Street offices on Monday, July 8, purporting to have come at the behest of their “Chairman” to obtain new voter registration cards, Dunbar noted that the group was told that the voter card replacement exercise deadline had passed and they were turned away. He also declined to comment on reports that CDC Chairman Morlu had paid a nocturnal visit to the home of the NEC Chairman on last Sunday following the chairman’s return from Accra.
The would be voters are suspected to have been recruited from elsewhere to support the CDC candidates in the elections.
Meanwhile, the Daily Observer has been reliably informed that prior to the postponement of the by-elections, the voters roll had not been displayed for inspection and public vetting as required by law, although public concerns had been raised about its integrity, which is considered key to the holding of free and fair elections. Prince Dunbar told the Daily Observer that, indeed there was going to be no voter roll display, but only the voter registration card replacement exercise.
Insider NEC sources say its official responsible for data management spent virtually the entire Sunday in the NEC data processing center for reasons suspected to be linked to attempts to corrupt an already compromised voters roll. The report has however been denied by NEC officials.
In fact, authorities at the NEC have further clarified that there is no replacement of missing and damaged voters’ cards going on at any of its offices as it has been rumored, the Commission said in a release, signed by Henry Flomo, communications director.
The Commission, according to the release, said replacement of voters’ cards for the 2019 Montserrado by-elections ended since June 27, 2019. “The initial deadline for replacement of voting cards was on June 25, however, due to government’s intervention to shoulder the cost of reproducing missing and damaged voting cards as per law, the Commission added a two-day grace period from June 26-27, 2019.
NEC has meanwhile called on all voters, who might have issues with their voting cards to solve them after the conduct of the pending Montserrado by-elections as the process of replacement is closed.
Insider NEC sources, however, told the Daily Observer that this move was driven by expressed public concerns about the integrity of the process, which appeared to convey an overwhelming public impression of massive fraud said to have been in the works.