Liberia: Failure to Uphold the Supreme Court’s 2017 Mandate Cames Back to Hunt the NEC; CPP Insists on Cancellation of Voter Roll Update
MONROVIA – The apparent failure of the National Elections Commission (NEC) to thoroughly uphold the 2017 mandate of the Supreme Court which called for the complete of the clean-up of the Voter Roll is leading to another stalemate ahead of the scheduled December 8 Special Senatorial Election.
The 2017 mandate from the Supreme Court came about when the preparations for the presidential run-off election had to come of a screeching halt just days ahead of its schedule, thereby, causing the run-off to delay for until December. It was originally scheduled for November 7 that dear.
The Supreme Court’s decision came emanated from a complaint filed the late Charles Walker Brumskine who was then the standard bearer of the Liberty Party that finished third place in the first round of the election presidential election.
Arguing his case before the Supreme Court at the time, Cllr. Brumskine cited “gross irregularities” and stated that “This is not about losing or winning, it has to do with putting a system in place.”
Besides several issues raised with the conduct of the first round of that election, Cllr. Brumskine who was backed by second place Unity Party headed by Joseph Boakai (vice president at the time) also complained of multiple registrations and flaws in the voter roll. They called for the cancellation of the election and requested a re-run of the entire process.
The Supreme Court acknowledged the flaws in the voter roll in its opinion in that case, but stated that the evidence was not sufficient to warrant the cancellation of the election results. The Supreme Court, however, in its attempt to avert a reoccurrence of such defects instructed the NEC to conduct a full clean-up of the roll in consultation with and information to the political parties.
The Supreme Court’s opinion stated: “Wherefore and in view of the foregoing, it is the considered opinion of this Court that the ruling of the NEC’s Board of Commissioners declaring a run-off election is hereby affirmed. However, with modification as follows:
- That the NEC is mandated and ordered to fully comply with the standards of publications of the FFR as in keeping with law as discussed in the Opinion.
- That the NEC is mandated to conduct a full clean-up of the FRR to have it comply with the provisions of the law.
- That the FRR be 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.
- 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:
- The any addendum to the FRR be limited to only those listed in the NEC’s polling and counting manual.
Three year on, with less than two and half months to the December 8 special senatorial elections, the same case befalls the Supreme Court once more – issues bordering on the voter roll remain unsolved.
CPP Goes to Supreme Court
The CPP in their complaint to the Supreme Court recalled that during the course of the court trial in 2017 where the integrity of the FRR was being challenged, the Chairman of the National Elections Commission at the time, requested the ECOWAS Commission for technical assistance in adherence to ECOWAS Protocol on Good Governance and Democracy of 2001. A team was then deployed with a task to make a critical assessment of the register of voters used in the elections, and advise on possible improvements and any related matter. The findings of the team, the CPP recalled the team’s finding showed that the 2017 voter roll was defective and could not form the basis for free, fair and credible elections.
According to the ECOWAS, the Provisional Registration Roll displayed by the NEC at all the registration centers throughout the country claimed a total of 2,182,956 registered voters.
After the exhibition exercise and before the final roll was published, a total of 170,000 suspected duplicate voters were extracted, 4,567 of which were confirmed to have appeared multiple times and therefore removed from the roll.
However, a total of 2,183,629 voters were published on the Final Voters Roll, the total number of voters on the FRR out to have been 2,012,956 given that 170,000 suspected duplicated names were extracted.
The conclusion, according to the CPP, is compelling that the 170,000 duplicates were never extracted from the voters roll and remain there up to date, thereby, rendering the FRR defective and unfit to lay the basis of election.
The ECOWAS technical team also figured the NEC data base, the total number of registered voters was 2,183,629 and this equals the total registered votes declared by the NEC in the FRR which also equals the total number of forms said to have been returned from the field and handed over the data center for processing. The observation of the NEC data base by team on June 12, 2017 during the exhibition showed that there were 2,045,483. The ECOWAS team’s analysis between that time and the time of the exhibition of the Provisional Register Roll and declaring the FRR, a total of 138,146 records were added to the voter roll.
According to the CPP, there is no evidence up to date that these additional 138,146 voters added to the FRR have been removed from the Voter Roll.
The CPP complained that the instead of cleaning up the Voter Roll as per the mandate of the Supreme Court, the NEC unilaterally elected to carry out a mobile Voter Roll update with focus on Liberians of voting age, those who have relocated their previous voting places to others; those who have lost their voting ID cards and those who did not register during the 2017 registration and to delete the names of those who have passed.
“This Petition to your Honor and the Honorable Supreme Court praying for Orders to compel the NEC to clean-up the Voter Roll is critical to the peace and stability of this country. Cleaning the Voters Roll will clothe the process with credibility, accountability and fairness and is in furtherance of Chapter 1, Article 1 of the 1986 Constitution,” the CPP stated in their petition.
According to the CPP’s petition, it has exhausted all remedies available to them to get the NEC address the shortcomings in the preparation for the elections with no success.
“The NEC has taken a position that it can make any decision, and take any action regarding the elections withy consultation with political parties. This is unjust, cruel and oppressive and has the tendency to undermine the smooth conduct of the midterm elections, potentially incite chaos and violence and drag this country into another round of conflict reminiscent of the civil war days. As it is, only the Supreme Court can calm this stormy situation,” they stated in the petition.