Liberia: “Plastic Seal, Others Missing And Ballot Box were Not Shown To Be Empty” – LEON Observes in Senjeh District 1 By-election
BOMI COUNTY – The Liberia Elections Observation Network (LEON) has released it’s preliminary report on the ongoing Representative by-election in Senjeh District # 1, Bomi County, alleging missing electoral materials and tempering with ballot boxes.
The body monitors electioneering activities in Liberia.
Thousands of eligible voters went to the polls early Tuesday morning to elect the candidate of their choice in the heavily contested by-election in Senjeh.
In the preliminary observatory report released during the afternoon hours, LEON disclosed that about 99.2% of its observers deployed at various polling precincts observed that the ballot box in their respective polling centers were shown to be empty before voting begun.
It points out that the remaining 0.8% of its observers also noted that the “ballot box was not shown to be empty”.
The group maintained that a further important element of election integrity is “proof that the ballot box is not tempered with at the earliest moment of polling”, but said was not the case with the polling centers observed by 0.8% of its observers.
“We are verifying this report and will be subsequently updating on why and in which polling places these happened”.
The group maintained that significant to the holding of free, fair and transparent elections is the availability of essential materials to conduct the election.
It named some of those materials as ballot boxes, plastic seals, puncher, indelible marker pens, NEC stamp, counting forms and PO journals, etc.
LEON furthered that out of the more than 50% of polling stations covered, it observed that 97% had all polling materials.
It added that 3% of the total number of polling stations observed did not have some essential polling materials.
The group named stamp pad, a plastic seal, rubber bands, puncher and others as some of the essential polling materials that were missing at some polling stations.
It encourages the NEC to ensure that the polling places that had materials missing are corrected.
LEON observed that five polling workers were noticed at all polling places in keeping with NEC’s account.
It added that there were 275 female polling staff, out of a possible of 660, representing 41.6%.
“Of the staff present, there were 26 female Presiding Officers (19.7%) and 106 male Presiding Officers (80.3%). The number represent significant under representation of women as Presiding Officers”.
Consider gender mainstreaming
LEON calls on NEC to consider gender mainstreaming as an important aspect of its implementation and develop mechanisms to achieve adequate inclusion of not only women, but all marginalized groups such as people living with disabilities in the electoral processes.
It also reported 99% of party agents at 99% of observed polling places.
The group believes that the presence of party agents in 99% of the observation centers will contribute to increasing electoral integrity in these polling places and admonishes the representative of political parties to serve as a check on the voting process.
LEON observes 99.9% security coverage at polling stations monitored.
It notes that it deployed 152 observers, including short and long term observers, and four coordinators, to observe the by election in Bomi.
The group further indicates that the findings provided, although provisional and partial, give it a good insight into what happened at more than 50% of polling places covered during the morning hours.
“We note very few incidents of trucking, disruption of voting and campaign around polling precincts but we are still verifying the reports”.
The by-election in Senjeh district in Bomi is being held simultaneously along with three separate by elections taking place in Bong, Nimba, and Grand Gedeh Counties.
The by-elections were triggered following the ascendancies of four Representatives to the Liberian Senate during the December 8, 2020 senatorial election held in the country.
They include Senators Edwin Melvin Snowe (former Representative district # 1 Bomi), Prince Moye (former Representative Bong district # 2), Zoe Pennue (former Representative Grand Gedeh district # 1), and Jeremiah Koung (former Representative district # 1) respectively.
Nine candidates are contesting for the representative seat for electoral district # 1 in Bomi County.
They include: Armah Vanah Boakai (Independent ), Charles S. Brown of the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP), John D. Karmo of Liberian National Union (LINU), Finda Gborie Lansanah (independent), and Edwin Folley McGill (independent).
Others are: Harry Buster Sando, Sr (Independent), Roosevelt Arvin Tulay, Sr of People’s Unification Party (PUP), J. Kpakpa Obediah Varney of Liberia Restoration Party (LRP), She Maxwell Vincent of Liberian People’s Party (LPP).
The ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) is not fielding a candidate in the Senjeh district By-election.
But President George Manneh Weah sometimes ago reportedly endorsed a request from his good friend, Senator Edwin Melvin Snowe to support his candidate-the lone female in the race.
Meanwhile, the NEC local office in Tubmanburg is expected to commence the official tallying of votes on Wednesday, November 17.