Liberia’s Election Commissioner Recommends Tactile Ballot in Liberia


Monrovia – Commissioner Sarah Toe of the National Elections Commission (NEC) is recommending the used of the tactile ballot for the conduct of all presidential and   legislative elections.

Report by Henry Karmo – [email protected] 

This, according to Commissioner Toe, could reduce the huge number of invalid ballots during elections. 

A tactile voting device is a device to enable a visually impaired person to mark a ballot paper in secret. 

The plastic device is attached to a ballot paper, and consists of a number of flaps, each covering one of the boxes on the paper. 

A number, corresponding to the box covered, is embossed in black on each flap.

The number shows up well against the white background of the ballot paper, and is raised so it can be identified by touch. 

Once the voter knows which number corresponds to each candidate or option, they lift the relevant flap or flaps, so they know where to make their mark. 

In the United Kingdom, all polling stations are legally required to provide a tactile voting device to any visually impaired voter

Commissioner Toe made the recommendation on March 23, during a one-day round-table conference organized by the Institute for Research and Democratic Development (IREDD) on Sharing Lessons Learnt: Liberia’s 2017 Legislative and Presidential Elections and Way Forward to improve further elections. 

Commissioner Toe said, in Liberia, a nation with high level of illiteracy, the Elections Commission spends more time on civic voters education.

Even at that, according to her, there is still huge number of invalid votes when the ballots are counted. 

“We have a high illiteracy level we spend more money and time to provide civic voter education. We educate through the radio, print, civic and gender educators.

They also give out information to people who are visually impaired.”

The Commissioner explained that as someone in charge of the Gender and Disability Session at NEC, it is important to push for tactile ballot, which is not only good for those without sight but those with sight as well.

This, she said will cut down the high number of invalid ballots during elections.

“I feel it is convenient and it will work very well for every one of us because it will cut very well on the invalid ballot”. 

She also disclosed that the National Elections Commission during the 2017 had a challenge of printing ballot for legislative candidates of the length of the paper.

“We had a long ballot on some there were more than 28 people which cause problem for us because the printer had not had such experience with such a long ballot.” 

The Commissioner also dispelled claims that led to several court actions that ballot boxes were stuffed.

“We had challenges; we had a lot of stress from candidates, who felt that the results disadvantaged them. I will tell you that as a Commissioner that there is no way a ballot box can be stuffed.”

“If there are mistakes on the record of count, it is a mistake made by some of our poll workers, who were not up to the task in tallying and adding numbers and those mistakes can be ratified on the opening of the boxes. 

The NEC Commissioner also made no secret about challenges of deployment facing the electoral body, especially during the past elections.

“We had challenges with deployment and retriever sometimes the road was not good and delay in DSA, but we tried to anticipate all of those and made sure things happened on time.”