The National Elections Commission has issued its Writ of Elections, mandating all of its Commissioners in the 15 counties to proceed with preparations for the impending October vote. It is vote that will not replace the entire Legislature but half of the 30 seats in Liberian Senate.
But who will participate in this most critical electoral exercise, when hundreds of thousands of Liberians, especially most of our young people who would have been voting for the first time, have been effectively left out of the process?
And how were they left out? The National Elections Commission failed to organize properly the last Voters Registration. NEC made three cardinal mistakes: first, the Commission, in the exercise of the penny wise and pound foolish philosophy, did not advertise the voter registration, so very few people knew about it. For such a critically important process, no stone should have been left unturned to LET THE PUBLIC KNOW what was happening. For what is the point in spending all that money on the people’s thing without first informing the people about it?
The Commission’s leaders could have approached some newspapers and radio stations, sat down with them and negotiated minimal advertising costs, and even mobilized the media, print and electronic, to speak and write about the voters registration, its crucial importance to the democratic process, when it would take place, where, in what parts of every city and district, on what dates and at what times. Special segments of such media engagement could have been targeted to the young, the 18 and 20 year-olds who were poised to cast their votes for the first time.
Many media institutions would have been only too happy to contribute to this critical national cause, in patriotic response to NEC’S plea for help. At least the Daily Observer received no such overture from NEC.
Secondly, what kind of budget did NEC ask for from government? The Commission should have carefully crafted a budget for the exercise, taking into consideration ALL the possible costs, and telling the Liberian government it could not execute that exercise without the requisite budgetary allocation. NEC should NOT have settled for less.
This leads to the third element of NEC’s fiasco: its decision to organize rotating voter registration points. Who ever heard about such a thing? If you are serious about getting people to register to vote, specifically designated sites should have been established and made known, clearly pointing out the exact address of the site, and the time it opens and closes. That was what was done in 2005.
To rotate the voter registration points is to totally confuse the citizen seeking to register because there was no one to tell him or her where the registration team would be, at what time, and where next it would go.
No wonder, then, NEC painfully but shamelessly announced last month that it had achieved under one third of the projected registration target. From the projected 400,000 or more, NEC announced that it had registered only 104,000.
It was sometime after the announcement of this dismal result that the Daily Observer published its story on the paper by the three Islamic women who said that Saudi Arabia had a plan to Islamize the world, including West Africa, especially Liberia. The writers, from Saudi Arabia, Iran and Syria, respectively, said of the plan for Liberia that the
National Elections Commission would be “manipulated” to deprive certain people from voting in elections.
The question could legitimately be asked, did NEC unwittingly contribute to this sinister scenario by failing to register hundreds of thousands of Liberian youth? It would be also be appropriate to ask, WHO were those that were registered?
There are growing concerns that many foreigners crossing our highly porous borders are already acquiring Liberian identity cards, passports, etc., by which they may be eligible to be registered to vote. This is scary.
We make another appeal to the Liberian government and to NEC, despite the paucity of time, to reopen the voters registration to give our young people another opportunity to fulfill their civil duty by registering to vote. It is their constitutional right which NO ONE should deny them.