Liberia: Cape Mount Senator-elect Admits Double Voter Registration But Says He Voted Once

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MONROVIA – The lawyer representing the legal interest of defeated Grand Cape Mount County Senator, Victor Varney Watson, in the electoral case before the National Elections Commission (NEC), Cllr. Alhaji Swaliho Sesay, has raised an alarm over the appearance of separate names and photographs of Senator-elect Simeon Taylor and others on two separate Final Registration Rolls (FRR) used by the NEC in the just ended senatorial election in Liberia.

Mr. Taylor, a candidate of the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP), was declared the winner of the senatorial election in Grand Cape Mount after he accumulated the highest numbers of votes cast during the voting process.

But his closest rival, who was the incumbent Senator, Watson, filed a complaint at the NEC claiming that the process was marred with multiple flaws including alleged double registration and voting, counting of invalid votes in favor of Senator-elect Taylor, and inflicting numbers on the records of account. He called for a recount of the votes.

Speaking in an interview with FrontPageAfrica over the weekend, Mr. Watson’s lawyer, Counselor, Alhaji Swaliho Sesay, claimed that Mr. Taylor had two voter registration cards with different identification numbers.

According to him, electoral materials, including some of the ballot boxes taken from Grand Cape Mount County and brought to Monrovia were allegedly tempered with by unknown persons.

“We raised qualms on frauds, irregularities on the part of Mr. Simeon B. Taylor and the Magistrate in Grand Cape Mount County. Mr. Taylor has two separate voting numbers that appeared in the FRRs. He admitted to voting in Tahn. The number he used in Tahn is a new registrant number. If you go through the FRR you will also see that the same kind of people that registered in Lofa Bridge are the same people that registered in Than; and they all voted”.

“The seals of some of the ballot boxes were broken and we raised contention. One of the boxes did not have the FRR in it. We are making our case and it’s necessary to have these things on the record. Only portion of the FRR was given to us; we said no. we subpoena those FRRs for a purpose. We named more than one person who was caught; a lot of them were seen involved with it”.

He complained of the alleged refusal of Election Magistrate, Joseph Kiazolu, to release in whole, the booklets of the Final Registration Roll (FRR). 

“Why don’t you give us the entire FRR instead of portions? The FRR booklet that the Magistrate is refusing to let us have completely had in there the evidence to show these double voting”.

Cllr. Sesay argued that Mr. Taylor, as a person who has voted in several past elections, did not fall in the category of first time voters, noting that, he did not need to acquire a new voter’s registration card for the December 8 senatorial election.

He maintained that the Mr. Taylor was only needed to change or replace his old lost or damaged voter registration card, instead of re-registering as a new voter to partake in the election.

Compliant filed against Hearing Officer

Cllr. Sesay further pointed out that based upon the manner and form Hearing Officer Swaray was proceeding with the case; he has complained to the Board of Commissioners (BOC) of the NEC. The case has been scheduled for today, February 15, 2021.

According to him, Atty, Swaray is not talking the case as a “normal court room proceeding”.

“I will not use the word thwarting because that’s too harsh. But he (Swaray) is looking at this proceeding as not being a normal court room proceeding which I disagree because, it’s a quasi-judicial forum that other judicial procedures are also applicable because these are documents that will go before the Supreme Court”.

He noted that though the legal team of Mr.  Watson will not be presumptive over the outcome of the case before the NEC, the team remains concerned over the delay in the matter despite the progress made so far.

Cllr. Sesay said the legal team of the former Senator is also concerned about the neutrality of the evidences that were or expected to be produced during the hearing with a call for the protection of the NEC premises and warehouses in Cape Mount.

He claimed that it is totally unacceptable for Magistrate Kiazolu, who is one of the accused, to still be in possession of the keys of the NEC facility in the county.

“He (Kiazolu) cannot be a witness testifying and still be in possession of the instrument that we need to prove the frauds that were committed. It compromises the neutrality of that office”.

Cllr. Sesay pointed out these alleged situations have the proclivity to cause chaos and instability in Grand Cape Mount.

The Complaint

In the 11-count complaint filed, a copy which is in the possession of FrontPage Africa, Cllr. Sesay claimed that Atty. Swaray denied their request for the Clerk of the Court to produce copies of the minutes of the Co-respondent first witness, Mr. Simeon Taylor to properly prepare them for the cross-examination.

The complaint, Summary Proceeding, derived from the case “Fraud and Irregularities” filed by the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), through its County Chairman, Boima Q. Kamara and senatorial candidate Victor V. Watson, as Petitioners and Atty. Fumba Swaray Hearing Officer as First Respondent and Presiding Officers of the NEC, Elections Supervisors, Polling Staff and all Senior Officers who presided over the three electoral districts of Grand Cape Mount as Second Respondents.

It states that Assistant Magistrate, Kiazolu who has already been qualified and sequestrated was allowed by the Hearing Officer to go alone for the requested FRR in Grand Cape Mount on Saturday, but arrived there “close to the close of business day” without any prior notice to the Petitioner (complainant).

“Because an information was received by Petitioner, Petitioner decided to surveillance the area, at which time the Logistics Officers were seen coming from the said office leaving only the Assisting Magistrate, Joseph Kiazolu in the compound who could not say what had happened in the said compound upon his return because there was not a representative of Petitioner present, thereby prejudicing the neutrality of the requested evidence for which Petitioner requested to make an application to the effect of the manner and form the evidence was brought to court”.

It adds that the manner and form the requested ballot boxes were brought to Monrovia was irregular, but the Hearing Officer intentionally brought four ballot boxes instead of eight, which have contained the FRR and one of the boxes was containing a broken seal which should never be the case.

The complaint maintains that out of the four ballot boxes that were opened, only three of the FRR were found.

Meanwhile, Cllr. Sesay has expressed optimism that the matter will be finally adjudicated by the NEC in an impartial manner.

Imposition

For his part, defeated Senatorial candidate, Victor V. Watson justified that the decisions of the voters remain in the ballot boxes, and as such, steps must be taken to ensure a recount in order for the will of the electorates to prevail.

He indicated that though he does not intend to gain reward for his decision taken to institute legal proceedings against the conduct of the senatorial election, his action is predicated on the need to restore the hope and confidence of citizens of the county.

“My votes were compromised and diverted. But I’m always urging my people to remain calm and peaceful until we get justice. This is beyond winning or losing; this is about justice”.

Mr. Watson denied reports that he was engaged by elders of the county to forgo his decision to institute a lawsuit against the process.

Left alone?

Since the institution of the legal campaign, executives and stalwarts of the governing Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) led-government have not done enough to provide the necessary support to Mr. Watson who ran on the ticket of the party.

There are reports that Mr. Watson was allegedly approached by some hierarchies of the party to pay low on his quest to legally challenged the process due to the party’s political leader’s decision taken to allow the will of the people to prevail in the just concluded electoral process.

But in response, Mr. Watson claimed that “the President wants justice to prevail and they will always be in support of anything that has to do with seeking the right of our people”.

The FRR

FrontPageAfrica managed to obtain copies of the Final Registration Rolls (FRRs) of two polling precincts in Grand Cape Mount, bearing separate names of Senator-elect Simeon Taylor and several others.

Those polling precincts include: Tahn Town Public School (Code: 12055) and Lofa Bridge Public School (Code: 12056).

Mr. Taylor was named “Taylor Simeon B”, captured as a 44-year old female and checked as a voter who cast his ballot with a voting card marked 823400361at polling place # 4 atTahn Town Public School. His photo was recognizable on the FRR.

At polling place # 4 at Lofa Bridge Public School, he was captured as “Taylor Simeon”, a male, age 42, with voting card #: 726361247 and photo posted also.

But In a brief telephone interview with FPA on Saturday, February 13, Mr. Taylor admitted that he previously obtained a voter’s card in Lofa Bridge in 2017, but his card got missing.

“When I lost my voting card, in 2020 candidate nomination started from September 1-21. Voters Roll Update started September 11. On September 11, according to the movement plan, we should have started at September 11 to September 13 at Lofa Bridge”.

“Because it was a mobile registration, we moved to another center. I went to get my voting card because, the movement plan they gave us said they should have been in Lofa Bridge on that day. I got there; they were not there. I went and met them in Tahn and I said according to the movement plan you gave us, you people should be in Lofa Bridge today. Why are you people not there? And they said David Armah said we should be in Tahn”.

Mr. Taylor continued:  So, I said ok, I lost my card and I need to do my nomination and I need that card to go for my nomination paper. And they said ‘hey we can give you new card. But we cannot give you a replaced card from Tahn’. I said ok and they gave me the card from Tahn”.

He noted that though officials of the NEC should have deleted his previous registration from their system after he obtained a new voter registration card, it is not his duty to compel them to do so.

Mr. Taylor admitted voting at the Tahn Town Public School, but denied casting his vote at Lofa Bridge.

“Election Day, I went to Tahn and cast my ballot and left from there. I told them that I didn’t vote twice. My colleague said that I voted twice in Lofa Bridge; I voted once and it has been proven; I didn’t vote twice”.

The Law

Mr. Taylor disclosed that he did not pay any money in the coffers of the Liberian government to obtain a new voter registration card even though he is not a first time voter.

His admittance contravenes few sections of the new election law of Liberia, particularly Sections 3.5, and 10.2 respectively.

Section 3.5 of the election law states that: “Each voter, after his/her name has been entered on the registration roll, shall be given a registration card by the registrar. The card shall contain particulars of the voter’s name and the county/district, constituency, registration center and roll number. (2) In the event of loss or destruction of the registration card, and after proof has been established, the registrar shall issue a new card for a minimum fee of five ($5.00) dollars to be paid in the Internal Revenue”.

Section 10.2(1C) of the electoral law states that “Registering or attempting to register to vote more than once in relation to an election” constitutes an electoral offense relative to fraudulent registration.

It is punishable with a fine or sixty days imprisonment or both, according to Section 10.2 (2) of the election law.

Mr. Taylor justified: “When they were doing the registration, there was when I went for my card; you don’t need to pay and I didn’t pay for it”.

He added that he cannot be held liable for errors or wrongs on the Final Registration Rolls of the NEC.

Both parties in the case have rested with the production of evidence and witnesses, but the filing of a complaint against the Hearing Officer by the Petitioner will delay the commencement of cross-examination or the submission of rebuttal witnesses in the case.

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