Liberia: CPP Blows Alarm Over Mobile Voter Roll
Monrovia – The opposition Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) is expressing unsettling concerns over a decision by the National Elections Commission to launch a Voters Update Exercise with the adoption of a Mobile Process Exercise which will be carried out without any reference to the other parties who are equal competitors in the sacrosanct democratic undertaking, ahead of the December 8 Senatorial Midterm elections.
In a communication addressed to the head of the NEC, Cllr. Davidetta Browne Lansanah, dated Sept. 11, 2020, the CPP accused the elections commission of dangerously treading a path of unilateralism, in collusion with the ruling CDC-led Administration.
In the wake of the controversial exercise, the CPP says it is requesting from the NEC, detailed information the feasibility, integrity and credibility of the pending Voters Roll Update (VRU); the mode of operations and status of the voters roll clean-up exercise; progress towards preparation for the conduct of the December 8 Senatorial Elections and Referendum; and the status of NEC’s monthly reporting to the National Legislature on the progress of the elections.
Regarding the integrity and credibility of the Voters Roll Update Process, the CPP says it considers the Voters Roll Update exercise crucially indispensable and cardinal to the conduct of the 2020 Senatorial Elections, because the exercise will streamline the total Voter Registry of Liberia which stands at two million one hundred eighty-three thousand six hundred twenty-nine (2,183,629) eligible voters.
Said the CPP: “Our keen interest in the VRU process stems from the fact that the 2017 Voter Registration Exercise that gave rise to the current FINAL REGISTRATION ROLL was associated with grave irregularities as authenticated by the Supreme Court of Liberia.”
The CPP averred that the unilateral action on the part of the NEC, in coordination with the CDC-led Administration, to decide on the use of a previously-failed mobile process, instead of the time-tested standard Stationary Approach, “is totally unacceptable and we demand that we stick with the time-tested method of a Stationary Process in the pending Voters Update Exercise.”
Said the CPP: “Our concern of a potentially prospective disastrous outcome using the mobile process in the Voters Update Exercise is justified by the irrefutable realities of the national experience of 2014. In 2014, the Registration process was done by a MOBILE PROCESS for a period of five (5) weeks, in the dry-season month of March, with a problem-free Voters Roll from 2011.”
The collaborating parties explained that although that process achieved the objectives of including the names of those who had attained the age of 18 years and above then, and those who transferred residence from one location to another, that MOBILE PROCESS encountered serious problems in 2014, because, in many cases, the teams arrived at locations where the people to register had not arrived, or departed when those to do the registration had already left. “It is only foolhardy to believe that what could not be properly achieved under favorable conditions in 2014, over a period of five (5) weeks, can be achieved under less favorable conditions in two (2) weeks.”
“We note that you continue to tread the path of unilateralism, in collusion with the same one party – the CDC-led Administration. Your latest action of launching the Voters Update Exercise and adopting the method by which the exercise (MOBILE PROCESS) would be carried out without any reference to the other parties who are equal competitors in this sacrosanct democratic undertaking, raises grave and unsettling concerns.“– Collaborating Political Parties
The CPP further explained that although the NEC targeted to register one hundred and twenty thousand (120,000) voters in the 2014 VRU, a target the NEC failed to achieve over a period of five months, it is utterly unbelievable that your leadership has planned to magically register three hundred thousand (300,000) voters over a two-week period, as we have gathered from credible sources.
The CPP insisted the NEC that the only viable option to a Voters’ Roll Update Exercise in Liberia is the Stationary Approach, which entails opening all the precincts across the Country for the entire period of the Registration Process. “We note very vehemently that no Voter Registration or Update Exercise has ever been conducted in Liberia for 15 days, particularly in a rainy season, even with the use of the Stationary Approach. To insist that the pending Voters Roll Update Exercise be conducted using the MOBILE METHODOLOGY is tantamount to mere symbolism and cosmetic showmanship intended to achieve a rigging of the process.”
The CPP took aim at NEC’s claim that the current VRU exercise will verify the eligibility and subsequent inclusion on the Voter Roll of thousands of individuals in possession of Voter Registration cards whose names are not on the Voter Roll, also known as the Final Registration Roll (FRR).
CPP also took aim at NEC’s claim that correct errors associated with data of Registrants on the FRR.
“Such errors include photos that are not recognizable, misspelled names, and place names in rightful centers where registration was done; 3. Include the names of Liberians who have turned 18 years and above, along with the names of Liberians who were 18 years and above in 2017 but did not participate in the 2017 Voter Registration Exercise; and 4. transfer of the names of individuals who are currently residing in locations different from where they registered in 2017.”
The CPP said the current FRR is critically flawed due to the fact that thousands of Voter Registration Cards are in the possession of individuals whose names are not on the Roll. “Moreover, there is more than one version of the FRR in existence, as evidenced by the discovery at the NEC during the 2019 Montserrado County Senatorial and District 15 By-Elections.”
The CPP however noted that since the 2017 Voter Registration Exercise, many Liberians have attained the age of 18 years and above. “As such, they must be included on the FRR during the VOTERS ROLL UPDATE process, in order to exercise their franchise during the pending Senatorial Election. The need to address all these issues in a timely manner prior to the conduct of the Senatorial Election in December 2020 has made the VOTERS ROLL UPDATE EXERCISE A NATIONAL IMPERATIVE of utmost urgency. We maintain that the current NEC and no NEC in the world can achieve all of the above in two weeks and through a MOBILE exercise during the raining season.”
Equally Concerned About Updates
The Collaborating Political Parties said they are equally concerned that the NEC will carry out a Voters Roll Update (VRU) from September 11 – 25, 2020. “During this process, “about 500 or more Voter Roll Update Teams will move across the country, at three-day intervals, from Voter Registration center to Voter Registration Center, covering more than 2080 Centers”. “Each Team will comprise a Registrar, Clerk, Shader, and Photographer. Each Team will cover a maximum of four Centers.”
Although the CPP recognizes and demands the right of every Liberian citizen of voting age to register and vote, without discrimination, the parties however believes and suspects that your proposed methods opens a floodgate for double and triple registration, voters’ cards padding and accumulation by powerful and wealthy candidates, for distribution to illegally imported voters. “These loopholes will ultimately result to double registration, and registration by people who may not even be Liberians.”
The CPP believes first, that the potentially massive scale and expected huge turn- out of the pending VRU process will be fraudulently abused, where some individuals with Liberian passports, birth certificates, nationalization certificate or National IDs will double register. Second, the process of sworn statements by two other registered voters, and confirmation by a Liberian traditional leader, will be fraudulently abused and some individuals will criminally facilitate multiple registrations.
The CPP is therefore requesting a detailed information from the NEC on the criteria that will be used to prevent multiple registration.
Regarding the Voters Roll Clean-up exercise, the CPP said it has been acknowledged publicly that the 2017 Final Registration Roll (FRR), also known as Voters Roll (VR), is plagued with several irregularities. “On account of irregularities, the Supreme Court of Liberia in 2017, in the case National Elections Commission of Liberia versus. Charles Walker Brumskine et all, mandated the National Elections Commission to “conduct a full clean-up of the FRR to ensure that multiple names of identification numbers are removed therefrom” … in consultation with and information to political parties…”
Consequently, the CPP said, the 54th National Legislature in a Joint Resolution on June 5, 2020 further mandated that “a clean-up process of the 2017 FRR shall be conducted by the NEC with the involvement of political parties….”. The Resolution also mandated the NEC to employ the “services of technicians from Political Parties for the cleaning up of the 2017 FRR…”
As a result, the CPP said, a team of technicians was seconded to the NEC by the CPP to participate and be involved in a full clean-up process of the 20177 FRR. “The technicians have informed CPP that the NEC has provided contradictory accounts about the status of the clean-up exercise, and that the technicians have not been allowed to participate in any clean-up process of the FRR. For example, the technicians reported that the NEC, during one meeting four weeks ago, took them on a facility tour of the NEC Data Center, and told the technicians that the clean- up exercise of the FRR will be conducted exclusively by NEC; and that any technician discovering discrepancy through individual scrutiny of the FRR should report it to the NEC. The CPP believes this mode of operation attributed to the NEC is contrary to the mandates of the Supreme Court and the National Legislature, which require that a full clean-up must be conducted with the participation and involvement of political parties.”
Requesting Full, Unhindered Participation
Furthermore, the CPP added, the technicians reported to the CPP that in another meeting about two weeks ago, the NEC informed them that the NEC conducted a “full-clean- up” of the 2017 FRR before the June 5, 2020 Joint Resolution of the National Legislature.
As a result, the CPP says it is requesting the NEC to confirm or deny: 1. Whether or not, a full clean-up of the 2017 has been conducted as mandated by the Supreme Court and the National Legislature; 2. whether or not, the NEC, in the first instance, informed CPP technicians that the clean-up exercise would be conducted exclusively by NEC, and requested the CPP technicians to conduct individual review of the FRR, and report any discrepancy; 3. whether or not the NEC, in the second instance, informed CPP technicians that the full clean-up of the FRR was conducted by the NEC prior to the Joint Resolution.
In the event you respond that a full clean-up of the FRR has already been conducted, the CPP is requesting a detailed information on the dates said exercise was conducted, who conducted it, and whether or not political parties participated.
In the event the NEC responds that a full clean-up of the FRR has not been conducted, the CPP says it is still requesting information on when it intends to conduct a full-clean-up; and further requests additional information on how you intend to carry out the exercise, and advise us on how the CPP, through its technicians, can participate in an open, clear and transparent clean-up exercise of the FRR. The CPP requests full and unhindered participation and involvement in the full clean-up of the roll as mandated by the Supreme Court and the Legislature.
As a matter of urgency and transparency, the CPP said it is imperative that regular consultations between the Political Parties and the NEC are sustained.”Such consultations shall relate to major electoral issues impacting the peace and stability of our Country; emerging issues relative to the capacity and preparedness of NEC to conduct free, fair, transparent and credible elections; emerging issues of political parties’ perceptions and observations of the evolving level playing field for all players; and the continuing trustworthiness of the referee(s) under the established rules of the game. It is this essential need of building and sustaining a mutually respectable and professional relationship that engendered the IPCC (Inter-Party Consultative Committee) mechanism in the first place and that has, since 2005, greatly assisted in reducing suspicions of mistrust between the NEC and the Political Parties.”