The Supreme Court will today, September 4, decide whether or not Edwin Melvin Snowe, who is the current Montserrado County District #6 representative, is qualified to seek election for the same post in the Legislature for Senjeh, Bomi County District#1 during the October 10 elections. The court’s decision comes a week after three of the five justices had listened to legal arguments between Snowe’s lawyers and those representing Senator Sando Johnson and Representative Samuel Gayah Karmo, both of Bomi county.
The two Bomi lawmakers had challenged the legality of the Montserrado County District#6 representative’s participation in the electoral process. Johnson and Karmo had initially appealed against the ruling from the authorities at the National Elections Commission (NEC), who denied their complaint on grounds that Snowe was qualified to be registered by the electoral body to contest for the district representative seat, a decision the two men claimed was unconstitutional.
Associate Justice Sie-A-Nyene G. Yuoh, who is Snowe’s wife, recused herself from the hearing, while Justice Kabineh M. Ja’neh was also absent during the argument. This means that Justices Yuoh and Ja’neh will not be part of today’s decision the highest court will be taking in the case. Chief Justice Francis Korkpor, Associate Justices Philip A. Z. Banks and Jamesetta H. Wolokollie are expected to deliver the court’s judgment.
The main issue to be answered is whether the three justices will reverse the NEC’s decision on Snowe, as the court did in the cases of two vice presidential candidates, Jeremiah Sulunteh of the opposition Alternative National Congress and Harrison Karnwea of the Liberty Party.
The Snowe case started when the NEC registered and certificated him to contest as an aspirant for Senjeh, Bomi County District#1 during the October 10 elections. The NEC action was immediately protested by Sen. Johnson and Rep. Karmo, who argued that Snowe was a sitting lawmaker for Montserrado County District#6, and as such, cannot change his domicile (residence) until after the expiration of his six–year tenure, which the men claimed Snowe had failed to do. Besides, they argued that while Snowe, as a current lawmaker for Montserrado County, was still receiving all his benefits at the House of Representatives, he was nonetheless selected to seek election for the same post for Bomi County District#1; something, the men believed was ‘completely unconstitutional.’
Initially, Johnson and Karmo’s complaint was filed to the NEC’s chief hearing officer, Cllr. Muna S. Ville, and was immediately accepted, thereby denying Snowe’s participation in the electoral process, based on which Snowe appealed to the NEC’s Board of Commissioners. The commissioners later reversed Ville’s judgment and subsequently qualified Snowe to contest for the said post in Bomi County. In their decision, the commissioners said Snowe produced several documentary evidences, such as tax payment receipts, and record of payment, to contractors to build a radio station, houses among other development projects in the county’s electoral District #1. They also said the payments established to their knowledge that Snowe was domiciled in the county with his investment in the area since 2014, which those documents had justified. “The issue of domicile for a citizen to become eligible to register to vote is irrelevant and cannot be accepted by the commissioners,” the NEC’s ruling said, adding, ”There is no ground to disallow Snowe from participating in the representative seat of Bomi County District#1.”
Johnson and Karmo challenged and appealed against the commissioners’ ruling to the Supreme Court. In all of his arguments, Snowe had maintained that he has never violated any provision of the 1986 Constitution that, while being a sitting lawmaker for Montserrado County District #6, and without the expiration of his six-year term, he cannot register to contest for the same post in another district.
Relying on Article 13 of the Constitution, which, he said, provides that “all citizens have freedom of movement to any part of the country in as much as they are not prevented from doing so by order of the same constitution.”
“This article clearly gives me the opportunity since there is no undue restriction from anyone or an institution as long as he had not violated any law that warrants him being barred from enjoying such a right,” Snowe’s legal team argued.