The possibility to have the December 8 mid-Senatorial election conducted in a free, fair and transparent manner that would avoid the country regressing into a situation of violence and instability rests squarely with the outcome of the Chamber Justice of the Supreme Court, Associate Justice Sie-A-Nyene Gyapay Yuoh, to either accept or ignore the request before her to issue a Mandamus against the National Elections Commission as first (respondent) and the Government of Liberia (as second respondent).
This stand from the writ been filed before her chamber by the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP), the petitioner, which includes the Unity Party (UP), Liberty Party (LP), Alternative National Congress (ANC) and the All Liberia Party (ALP) who, in their petition, asked Justice Yuoh to order the election body to clean-up the Voter Roll, which they believe, is critical to the peace and stability of the country, stressing that “cleaning the Voter’s Roll will clothe the process with credibility, accountability and fairness and is in furtherance of Chapter 1, Article 1 of the 1986 Constitution.”
Justice Yuoh is the wife of the current Representative of Electoral District#1 in Bomi County, Edwin Snowe of Bomi County and one of the aspirant of the December 8 mid-term Senatorial in that county who had been accused by some of his opponents of being in violation of the election law by trucking people from outside the county to register and vote in his favor.
The question remains unanswered whether she will issue the alternative writ of mandamus as requested for by the CPP or allow the NEC to continue with the exercise.
The writ of Mandamus is a special proceeding to obtain a writ requiring the NEC to perform an official duty. Even the Supreme Court itself had held in a number of opinions that a writ of mandamus should be issued whenever the petitioner can make it plain (a) that he or she has the legal right to have the act performed, (b) that it is the legal duty of the NEC to perform such act, and (c) that if the writ be granted, petitioner will obtain relief for which no other plain, speedy, and adequate remedy exist.
The CPP, in their complaint also asked Justice Yuoh to order the issuance of the alternative writ of mandamus against the NEC and the government and, by it, require them to file their appearance and to show cause on a date and time fixed by her (Justice Yuoh), pleading, “as to why the preemptory writ of mandamus should not be issued.”
The compliant continues: “Grant the preemptory writ of mandamus after hearing, compelling the NEC and the government to comply with the Supreme Court’s judgment in the case, National Elections Commission and the Board of Commissioners vs Charles Walker Brumskine, Harrison Karnwea, presidential and vice presidential candidates and Joseph Nyumah Boakai and James Emanuel Nuquaye, presidential and vice presidential candidates at the October 10, 2017 elections of both the Liberty Party and the Unity Party, respectively.”
The writ also asked that Justice Yuoh compelled the NEC and the government to go back to the recommendations of the ECOWAS team and conduct a transparent full and comprehensive clean-up of the 2017 Voter’s Roll (FRR) in close collaboration with political parties within a time frame to be determined by her (Justice Yuoh).
According to the ECOWAS report, the suit explained, the provisional registration roll displayed at all the registration centers throughout the country, claimed a total of 2,182,956 registered voters.
The suit also said that, after the exhibition exercise and before the final roll was published, a total of 170,000 suspected duplicates voters were extracted, 4,567 of which were confirmed to have appeared multiple times and therefore removed from the roll.
The lawsuit further claimed that the ECOWAS report said a total of 2,183,629 voters were published on the Final Voters Roll, the FRR, 30 days to the election of September 11, 2017.
Given these facts, the suit claimed, if the 170,000 suspected duplicate names were to be removed from the provisional registration roll, the total number of voters that should be on the FRR ought to have been 2,012,956 and not 2,183,629 voters, as was reported by the NEC.
The suit also challenged the NEC claimed that it extracted the 170,000 suspected duplicate voters, stressing “the conclusion is compelling and inescapable that the 170,000 suspected duplicates were never extracted from the voters roll and remain there up to date, rending the FRR defective and unfit to law as a basis for elections.”
They also claimed that the ECOWAS report stated that, at time it gained access to the NEC Database (01,12,2017), the total number of registered voters was 2,183,629, which equals the total registered voters declared by the NEC (FRR total), which also equals the total of OMR forms said to have been returned from the field and handed over to the data center on the June 12, 2017. The total valid registered voters the team viewed in the database as at that time was 2,045,483.
“From this analysis, the ECOWAS report concluded that between the time of the exhibition of the FRR and declaring the FRR, a total of 138,146 records were added to the voter roll,” the court’s document claims, adding, “there is no evidence up to date that these additional 138,146 voters added to the FRR have been removed from the voters roll.”
The ECOWAS team, the suit also said, concluded that the existing register of voters could only be used for that election in 2017, provided the recommendations made by the team are given due consideration by the Commission, in consultation with the relevant stakeholders.
They also argued that the Joint Resolution #003/2020 of the Senate and House of Representatives of the 54th Legislature authorized the postponement of the Senatorial election and referendum, which was scheduled for October 13, 2020, to Tuesday, December 8, 2020, in order to conduct free, fair, transparent and credible elections.
“The legislature, mindful of the defective nature of the 2017 FRR as acknowledged by the Supreme Court and revealed by the ECOWAS report, in a joint resolution adopted by the Senate and House of Representatives, ordered the NEC to clean the voter roll,” the suit noted.
The suit also argues that the Legislature directed that, considering the authenticity and credibility of the 2017 FRR continues to be a source of speculation by the political parties and civil society organizations involved with the electoral process, a clean-up process of the 2017 FRR shall be conducted by the NEC with the involvement of political parties and other stakeholders in order to enhance the legitimacy and authenticity of the 2017 FRR for use for the 2020 Senatorial election.
“That the voter registration update (VRU) shall be conducted for the 2020 Senatorial election and referendum. That without diminishing the constitutional and statutory powers, authority and functions of the NEC, the NEC shall employ and use the inter-party consultancy committee (IPCC) as a functional mechanism for consultations with political parties, while also employing the services of technicians from political parties for the cleaning of the 2017 FRR and VRU for the 2020 Senatorial Election and Referendum. NEC shall recognize and certify this mechanism to ensure the credibility of the VRU,” the document added.
They also said, that due to the special circumstance appertaining to the 2020 Senatorial election and Referendum, the NEC shall give written progress report every thirty (30) days to the legislature and physically appear to react to concern of the legislature, to ensure that the problems faced by the NEC will be promptly resolved and that the senatorial election and referendum will be held on December 8, 2020.
“With callous disregard of the consequences, NEC has failed, neglected and refused to clean-up the Voters Roll, as ordered by the Supreme Court, as mandated by the Senate and House of Representatives and as recommended by the ECOWAS,” the suit noted.
“Despite sending their technicians to collaborate in cleaning-up the roll,” the suit continues, “the NEC has refused to collaborate and work with the technicians, instead, the NEC took them on a facility tour of it Data Center and told them that the clean-up exercise of the FRR will be conducted exclusively by the NEC.”
They also said, the Supreme Court, in its opinion on the integrity of the voters roll or the FRR used during the 2017 General and Presidential election, which was challenged by the Liberty Party, the court acknowledged several irregularities in the voters roll and ordered the NEC to conduct a full clean-up of the roll in consultation with and information to the political parties.
In that opinion, the court then said, “the ruling of the NEC’s board of commissioners declaring a run-off election is hereby affirmed, however, with modification.”
The court further recommended that “NEC is mandated and ordered to fully comply with the standards of publications of the FRR as in keeping with law and as discussed in the opinion and that NEC conduct a full clean-up of the FRR to have it comply with the provision of the law.”
The Supreme Court opinion, the suit said, “mandated the NEC to made available in published hard copies to all election magistrates and polling places across the country in accordance with the law, prior to any run-off election being conducted and that, given the fact that the FRR is the only electoral document that speaks to the eligibility of voters, the NEC is hereby prohibited from permitting anyone whose name is not found on the FRR to vote, and that the addendum to the FRR be limited to only those listed in the NEC’s polling and counting manual.”
It was based on the Supreme Court’s opinion, the NEC requested the President of the ECOWAS Commission to deploy a technical team to Liberia with a task to make a critical assessment of the register of voters used for the election, and advise on possible improvements and any related matters. It is the findings of the ECOWAS report that clearly show that the 2017 voter roll was defective and could not form a basis for free, fair and credible elections which, the CPP is claiming, NEC ignored the cleaning-up process and is now proceeding with the registration of voters using the same challenged FRR.