Liberia: Shortage Of Polling Staff Affects Smooth Voting Process

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Robertsport, Grand Cape Mount County – The Liberia Elections Observation Network (LEON) has reported the shortage of polling staff at polling places observed by the Network during the voting process of the Senatorial by-election in Grand Cape Mount County.

Launched in May 2017, LEON is a platform of four (4) Liberian Civil Society Organizations: The Catholic Justice and Peace Commission (JPC), Liberia Crusaders for Peace (LCP), Federation of Liberia Youth (FLY) and National Union of Organizations for the Disabled (NUOD) with the goal to meaningfully contribute to democratization processes in Liberia. 

Speaking to Reporters in Robertsport, Grand Cape Mount County on Saturday, October 5, 2019, a member of the group’s Steering Committee, Pilate Johnson, pointed out that the shortage of polling staff at various centers resulted in to “poor queue control.”

He maintained that the situation also compelled Presiding Officers of various polling centers (which he did not mention), to do the works of other poll workers, particularly the Voter Identification Officer.

“There was a shortage of polling staff in around a third of all polling places observed, resulting in poor queue control or the Presiding officer to have to do the work of other staff especially the Voter Identification Officer. The NEC has informed LEON that they have been sending standby staff out at affected Polling Places.”

Mr. Johnson furthered reported that all polling places opened on time with opening procedures done correctly in front of party agents. 

“Between 5 to 7 party agents were present in each polling place, from across the spectrum of candidates, giving a large degree of transparency to the process. LEON is not aware of any official complaints at the time of this conference. All LEON observers that are able to report so far have been allowed to observe the process freely,” he added.

According to him, voting procedures were well conducted and the secrecy of the voting was protected, but in four (4) polling places ballot paper issuer did not explain to the voters how to vote correctly.

He said people queuing several times in one precinct in order to find the correct polling place to vote was one of the biggest problems observed during the voting process.

The former Executive Director of the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission (JPC) indicated that the scarcity of queue controllers made it difficult for voters to be properly directed.

“This slowed the election with people often taking ten minutes at each voter identification station. Where people went to the correct polling place first, or were in a precinct with only one polling place, voter identification took less than a minute. LEON believes that dividing the register between polling places by name rather than by number would greatly ease this problem in future elections,” he maintained.

Meanwhile, the LEON has confirmed cases where a few people were not found at all on any list, and were denied from exercising their constitutional franchise.

“There was a shortage of polling staff in around a third of all polling places observed, resulting in poor queue control or the Presiding officer to have to do the work of other staff especially the Voter Identification Officer. The NEC has informed LEON that they have been sending standby staff out at affected Polling Places.”

– Pilate Johnson, LEON Election Observer

“This was observed in Median Public School, (Precinct 12040, District #2) Sinje Public School (District #2) Kperneje (Precinct 12049), Tan Public School (Precinct 12055 District #1), Islamic Model School (Precinct 12064, District #2), Robertsport High School (Precinct 12063, District #2)   and most notably in Tienii Public School (12008, District #3), Kingjor Town Hall (12018, District #2)”.

According to him, LEON has deployed 3 Long Term observers and 31 short term observers across all Districts of Grand Cape Mount County and a core team of 8 analysts from September to present. 

They have been observing the work of the election commission, replacement of lost and damaged cards though this not happen, the campaign and holding meetings with the candidates. LEON has also been observing the general political environment and monitoring political posts across Facebook and statements in the press. 

The vacancy for the Grand Cape Mount County Senatorial election was caused by the death of Senator Edward B. Dagoseh.

The late Senator, died at the John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital in Sinkor, Monrovia, reportedly of cancer.

Until his death, he was an Executive Committee Member of the former ruling Unity Party (UP). 

Unfortunately, he was among the eight UP senators of the 30-member Senate, who were suspended by the party for their role played in the removal of former Associate Justice Kabineh Ja’neh.

The late Grand Cape Mount Senator formerly served as Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Youth and Sports; in a senior position at the Ministry of Finance before it was merged with the Ministry of Planning and Economics Affairs.

Seven (7) candidates, including two (2) females are contesting the by-election. 

They include: Mathew Darblo of the Vision for Liberia Transformation (VOLT), Kula Fofana of the Coalition for Liberia’s Progress (CLP), Daoda Metzger, an independent candidate, Simeon Taylor of the Alternative National Congress (ANC), Dabah Varplah of the Unity Party, Victor Watson of the People’s Unification Party (PUP), and Sando Wayne of the United People’s Party (UPP).

As one of the founding counties of Liberia, Grand Cape Mount County remains backward in terms of economic and infrastructural growth and development.

The county was established in 1856.

The winner of the senatorial by-election in Grand Cape Mount County will have a mammoth challenge of addressing the numerous constraints confronting residents of the county, ranging from lack of adequate healthcare delivery, access to safe drinking water, job opportunities, and bad roads condition, among others.

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