Liberia: Use of Nat’l ID Cards as Requirement to Obtain Biometric Voters ID Causing Stir among Citizens, Political Parties
MONROVIA – There is a brewing fear among members of the public and political parties that many Liberians may be left disenfranchised should the National Elections Commission (NEC) heavily rely on the use of National ID Cards as proof of citizenship for Biometric Voter Registration.
The NEC early this month announced that Voter Registration would commence on March 20 and will run up to May 11.
By Lennart Dodoo, [email protected]
According to the NEC, the potential voters will have to provide proof of Liberian citizenship. “The NEC also determines the acceptable types of IDs, among which are Birth Certificates, passports, and National ID cards,” the NEC stated in the announcement.
However, the concern among citizens and political parties is that not many citizens, especially in rural Liberia may have access to the National Cards.
According to the 2022 census, Liberia now has a population of about 5.3 million people with an estimated voting population of about 2.5 million, yet, only 605,000 have enrolled with the National Identity Registry. This means over two million potential voters may not have means of proving their citizenship when required during the Biometric Voter Registration.
Experts say the NEC would also need equipment that reads the biometrics on the National ID Cards for authentication in order to prevent people with fraudulent cards from being registered to vote.
The Government of Liberia (GOL) enacted the national identification registry (NIR) act in 2011 to establish national identification in the country. The law called for the setup of a NIR to be responsible for issuing a biometric-based identification card to each citizen and resident in Liberia. The development of digital identity in Liberia can help the country’s economic and social development.
Mr. Amos Tweh, the secretary general of the Unity Party, told FrontPageAfrica that the party had raised the concern with the NEC over the use of the National ID Cards as proof of citizenship for Biometric Voter Registration.
According to Tweh, the NEC assured that the National ID Cards would be the primary proof of citizenship, rather a potential voter must have a typical Liberian accent.
“By having the National ID Card before someone can register, it would be a disservice and it would disadvantage our people, especially in the rural areas, and even in urban areas. There are many people in Montserrado that have not taken National ID Card,” Tweh said.
He said NEC had informed them as political parties that it would relax the aspect of identity and use the Liberian accent for the registration, therefore, they as a political party have taken the message to their followers that they would be registered once they can talk like a Liberian.
Tweh noted that the NEC would be deceptive if it insists on the use of national identity cards for registration and that the Party would resist such move.
“NEC said they’re going to relax the driver license and National ID Cards as requirement,” he emphasized.
He added, “We know very well that the National Identity Registry does not have the capacity to register the almost 2-3 million people who have reached the age of eligibility to register and vote and they have not been able to register those number of individuals, particularly in the rural areas so they cannot use that as a major requirement. Political parties are going to disagree with NEC and we’ll make sure we take appropriate actions on that to make sure people are not disenfranchised.”
Also speaking on the topic, the Chairman of the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) termed as “nonsense” the use of the National ID as major requirement to get the Biometric Voters ID and insisted that the CPP will not accept that mandate.
Bility, however, also kicked against the use of Liberian accent as the means of determining citizenship in order to get registered to vote.
“We will not accept anything outside of the Constitution. Is there anything in the Constitution that says “Liberian Accent” is the requirement for citizenship?” Bility asked rhetorically.