Unity Party Sues National Elections Commission Over "Vote Roll"

... The roll, which cannot be altered 30 days before an election except by a Supreme Court order, contains the names, addresses, and other essential information of registered voters and plays a pivotal role in verifying the legitimacy of the electoral process.

The opposition Unity Party has petitioned the Supreme Court to issue a Writ of Mandamus against the National Elections Commission to compel the electoral body "to produce, publish, and distribute the Final Registration (voter) Roll."

The legal challenge by the former ruling party is rooted in its belief that timely access to the roll is a key requirement that would ensure the credibility of the October 10 elections.

“[Unity Party] respectfully prays for the issuance of a mandatory WRIT OF MANDAMUS compelling the respondent (National Elections Commission) to perform its specified legal duties to have the Final Registration Roll of certified voters by location published and distributed to political parties and independent candidates.”

The roll, which cannot be altered 30 days to an election except by a Supreme Court order, contains the names, addresses, and other essential information of registered voters and plays a pivotal role in verifying the legitimacy of the electoral process. 

However, with 14 days to the October 10 polls, the electoral body is yet to provide a definite release date for the Final Registration Roll despite political pressure to do so.  

The electoral body which has, however, not committed to a specific date for the publication of the roll, has insisted that it is working diligently towards making the list available “in a secured format and available to all stakeholders as soon as possible.”

“Printing of the Final Registration Roll (FRR) began about a week ago and is progressing well,” the NEC said in a release last week. “NEC staff are working day and night to ensure that the voter roll and other election materials are deployed in time for the October 10 general elections.”

The Unity Party and other opposition politicians have for the last few weeks contended that the NE’'s failure to provide access to the “roll violates the principles of transparency and fairness that underpin democratic elections.”

They argue that without “timely” access to the crucial document, political parties would find it tough to adequately identify any irregularities or discrepancies in the roll and have it correct. 

The NEC has yet to issue a formal response to the Unity Party’s petition since the case was filed today but it is expected to proceed swiftly through the legal process, given the urgency surrounding the impending national elections. The Supreme Court is expected to carefully review the merits of the Unity Party’s argument and assess whether a writ of mandamus is warranted in this particular situation.

A writ of mandamus is a court order compelling a government official or agency to perform a mandatory duty or function required by law. In this case, the Unity Party argues that the NEC has a legal obligation to make the “final registration roll accessible to the public and political parties,” and its failure to do so warrants judicial intervention.

The outcome of the case, according to legal experts, could have far-reaching implications for the broader October 10 electoral process.  If the Supreme Court grants the Unity Party Writ of Mandamus, which is being closely watched by other political parties, civil society organizations and the general public,  it would set a precedent for increased transparency in the electoral process, potentially influencing other suits.

The current voter roll saga comes after Afrobarometer reported in April of this year that popular trust in the electoral body remains weak as Liberia prepares for general elections. 

Afrobarometer, a pan-African, non-partisan survey research network, shows that only one-third of Liberians trust the Commission to conduct a fair election — a decline of 10 percentage points since 2018, even though most Liberians express confidence in the secrecy of their ballots.