MONROVIA – In April this year, the Supreme Court dismissed a petition filed by the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) that sought to invalidate the ongoing voter registration process at the time, citing the failure of the National Elections Commission (NEC) to demarcate electoral districts that align with the latest population census. Their petition was, however, dismissed by the Supreme Court. With a month to elections, the Unity Party has raised issues with the threshold at 93 voting precincts.
By Selma Lomax, [email protected]
UP Comes with Fresh Complaint
Now, as all focus have now been placed on the conduct of the October 10 elections, the erstwhile ruling Unity Party says the National Elections Commission (NEC) has deliberately violated Chapter 4. 1.2 of the revised Electoral laws.
Chapter 4 Section 1.2 of the 2014 revised National Elections law states that “the number of voters in every precinct shall approximately equal, and unless the commission in any particular case determines, the number of registered voters in any precinct shall not exceed 3000”.
In a communication to the NEC, the Unity Party highlighted that 93 precincts in nine counties constituting 4.5% of all voting precincts in Liberia have more than 3000 voters.
Amongst other things, Chapter 4 Section 1.2 also says “The commission shall determine and publish the location of polling places to serve the voting precincts; the location of a polling place may be changed by the commission if it determines that it is necessary.
The UP warned the NEC to adhere to all provisions in the guidelines governing the elections.
What the CPP Argued at the Time
The CPP argued that the National Elections Commission (NEC) failed to set a threshold for constituency demarcation in keeping with the census report released by the government, through the Liberia Institute for Geo-Statistics and Info-Services (LISGIS).
When the CPP presented their case before the full bench on April 4, their primary argument revolved around the NEC’s decision to conduct Voter Registration after a census without constitutionally demarcating constituencies for voter registration, which they believed raised serious constitutional questions. The CPP cited specific articles from the Liberian Constitution to support their position.
Article 89(b) of the 1986 Liberian Constitution, as amended, mandates the Legislature to conduct a census every ten years. Furthermore, Article 80(e) of the Constitution stipulates that after a national census, the Elections Commission should reapportion constituencies based on new population figures to achieve roughly equal population distribution, with each constituency having approximately 20,000 citizens, or a number prescribed by the Legislature.
The CPP argued that the NEC’s actions in announcing plans for Voter Registration without indicating any intention to demarcate and reapportion constituencies violated these constitutional provisions. They viewed this as a failure to fulfill the NEC’s constitutional duty.
The CPP’s position was that both the population threshold and constituency demarcation must be established before the NEC proceeds with Voter Registration. They argued that the NEC’s decision to register voters without meeting these prerequisites not only violated the Constitution but was also unconstitutional.
However, the NEC firmly maintained that there would be no re-demarcation of electoral constituencies for the 2023 General Election and the Supreme Court noted that the Liberian Constitution should be interpreted in its entirety and that the duty to reapportion constituencies under Article 80(e) depended on the preconditions of concluding the National Census Report and legislative action to create the necessary threshold.