Battle for Senate Begins

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Sen. Jewel Howard Taylor

The National Elections Commission (NEC) at the weekend launched the Voters’ Roll Update ahead of the ensuing 2014 Special Senatorial Election in Liberia.

The intent, NEC said, is to incorporate Liberians who have attained the age of 18 and above since the last elections in 2011, when the voters’ registration exercise was last held.

According to NEC Chairman Cllr. Jerome G. Korkoya, eligible Liberians who, for one reason or the other did not register in 2011; voters, who have changed locations since the last voters’ registration exercise and wish to be registered at their current location are those that will be covered under said exercise.

This process runs from January 13 to March 5, 2014.

Speaking at NEC Headquarters during the launch, Cllr. Korkoya indicated that the success of the voters’ roll update is largely dependent on the conduct of a sustained civic and voters’ education exercise. He described the process as an integral part of a democratic establishment.

Chairman Korkoya: “Civic and voter education in a democratic process is particularly important because it deals with broader concepts underpinning a democratic society such as the respective roles and responsibilities of citizens, governments, political  and special interests, the mass media, the business and non-profit sectors as well as the significance of periodic and competitive elections.   

It emphasizes not only citizens’ awareness but participation in all aspects of the democratic process. NEC is aware that there can be no free, fair and participatory elections in the absence of adequate information.”

Cllr. Korkoya maintained that in order to successfully educate voters about the election, the Commission has partnered with 50 civil society organizations currently carrying out school-based information dissemination campaign on the voters’ roll update exercise.

Accordingly, said campaign is being conducted in secondary and tertiary learning institutions in the 15 counties under the supervision of NEC. The Commission furthered that the aim of said awareness among the youth is to encourage young people, mostly “first time voters” to overwhelmingly participate in the process.

On the issue of women participation, the NEC boss announced that with funding from UNDP, NEC is engaged with gender, specific project aimed at enhancing and increasing women’s participation in the Voters’ Roll Update process.

The Commission has deployed 219 civic and voter educators in the 15 counties to carry out door-to-door education and awareness. 51 are deployed in Montserrado, while the remaining 168 take mission in the other 14 counties.

Also speaking, Press Union of Liberia (PUL) president Abdullai Kamara lauded NEC for the update exercise but added that “there remain many unanswered questions about the process.”

He called on government’s functionaries responsible for collecting data to collaborate in order to have a proper and updated data of Liberians.

The PUL’s position was also buttressed by Bong County Senator Jewel Howard Taylor, who also thinks that there’s a need to support an integrated data system.  She praised the Commission for the positive initiative and called on voters to participate at all level.

The Bong County Senator further encouraged local and international partners to adequately support NEC with every necessary budgetary requirement to ensure that a well-organized and credible Senatorial election is held.

Launch of the Voters’ Roll Update could mean that the quest for entering the Senate by many politicians in January 2015 has begun.

The Special Senatorial Election is the first of its kind since the 1986 Constitution came into force. Many see it as the beginning stage for the bigger political contest in 2017. Some presidential candidates, including Peace Ambassador George M. Weah, in previous elections have vowed to place their names on the ballot. 

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