Since the start of the nationwide voter registration exercise, Montserrado County has witnessed the denial of female Muslims (for allegedly refusing to take-off their headscarves) and Mandingos (for allegedly being non-Liberians).
Those rejected were never issued a notice of rejection in a prescribed form stating reasons for their rejection and informing the applicants of their right to appeal in keeping with Article 7 (rejection of application).
The National Elections Commission (NEC) began the exercise for the presidential and legislatives elections in October on February 1 and it is expected to end on March 7.
According to Article 3 (eligibility) of an August 2016 Voter Registration Regulations issued by NEC, a Liberian citizen who has attained the age of 18 years or older may register as a voter, except one who has been judicially declared to be incompetent or of unsound mind or who has been disenfranchised as a result of a conviction of an infamous crime, and has not been restored to citizenship.
In some cases, Muslims rejected in the Clara Town community – in keeping with Article 6, were told to bring either a valid Liberian passport, a previous voter registration card issued by the NEC, a sworn testimony by two registered voters who shall appear in person before the registrar and confirm the applicant’s eligibility to register, confirmation by a Liberian traditional leader, who shall appear before the registrar and confirm the applicant’s eligibility to register, a birth certificate or certificate of naturalization – were woefully denied despite presenting their past voter registration cards.
Those denials by NEC workers are contributing to the under-registration of Montserrado County, which is the most populated county in the country, and one of the strongholds of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC).
During the 2005 presidential and legislative elections, CDC’s Joyce Musu Freeman-Sumo and Hannah Brent (deceased) won as senators with a combination of 166,339 votes. CDC also won nine of the 14 seats in the House of Representatives.
During the 2011 elections, the CDC won seven of the 17 seats in the House of Representatives, including a re-elected Thomas Fallah of Electoral District #5 and Dr. Edward Forh of Electoral District #16.
Another challenge that has led to under-registration of voters in Montserrado County has to do with “faulty cameras” and “premature closure of voter registration centers” before the prescribed 6:00PM.
Others include the abrupt transfer of registration centers from previous ones to different venues and their subsequent closure at 3:00PM.
Addressing a news conference on February 2, NEC chairman Jerome George Korkoya, who was one of 13 candidates that lost by 2,321 to 3,279 votes to CDC’s Tokpa Mulbah in Bong County Electoral District #1 as a Unity Party candidate, blamed the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) for having procured “faulty cameras.”
Cllr. Korkoya admitted that “most of the complaints so far received by the NEC call center came from Montserrado and its environs.”
As the voter registration curtain draws down with a potential for extension, CDC insiders say they are going to embark on a vigorous voter registration mobilization and sensitization awareness, as is being done by civil society organizations, faith-based groups, community based organizations and media advocacy groups, to even the field.