LIBERIA: ECC Isues Preliminary Statement And Findings On The Observation Of Representatives By-Elections

The Elections Coordinating Committee (ECC) has issued a preliminary statement on the observing of the just ended Representatives By-elections, outlining the role it played during these elections, below is the full text of the ECC statement.

Introduction

Based on reports from ECC observers Liberians conducted themselves in an orderly manner and voting took place in a peaceful manner. This preliminary statement is based on reports that the Elections Coordinating Committee (ECC) has received from 78 Short-term Observers (STOs) deployed to polling precincts to observe the 2021 Representative By-Elections in Bomi (District-01), Bong (District-02), Nimba (District-01) and Grand Gedeh (District-01).The observation focused on all aspect of the procedure including Set-Up and Opening, Voting, Closing and Counting.

To perform this task, the ECC trained and deployed 93 observers. Of the 93 observers, 78 were precinct observers deployed generally to observe at all 78 voting precincts, 4 electoral district supervisors who supervised the activities of elections day observers, 4 county coordinators who served as tally observers to observe the tabulation of the accumulative votes; and 7 Data Clerks who were stationed at the ECC’s Data Center in Monrovia to collect data from the observers. This deployment at all of the 78 Polling Precincts enabled the ECC to speak on the quality of the conduct of the process.

Key Findings:

Arrival:

  • By 7:00am, all ECC Observers were at their assigned voting precincts and polling places. In 99% of polling places where ECC Observers are located, the National Election Commission (NEC) staff respected the ECC Observers’ status as accredited observers and permitted them to observe at the polling place.

Set-Up 

  • ECC observers reported that at all 78 of polling places observed all five NEC staff members were present during the set-up. In 19% of polling places, at least two NEC staff members were women.
  • Observers reported that all sensitive materials (including the ballots, ballot stamp, indelible ink, the Final Registration Roll (FRR), and the Record of the Count Forms) were available at all observed polling places at the time of opening.
  • In all of polling places where the ECC observed, the NEC presiding officers showed that the ballot boxes were empty and the presiding officers sealed each of the ballot boxes with four seals before voting commenced.
  • ECC observers in 49% of polling places noted that they had to climb stairs to reach the polling place. Stairs make the polling place inaccessible to persons with disabilities or the elderly.
  • In all of voting precincts where ECC observers were located, observers saw security personnel in the area.

Opening 

ECC observers reported that voting generally commenced on time in most of the observed voting precincts and polling places.                                                                              

Voting Process

Within their polling place, ECC observers witnessed NEC staff generally following voting procedures.

  • In 100% of polling places observed, voters were always asked to present their voter registration (VR) card before being allowed to vote.
  • ECC observers in 99% of polling places reported that the ballot papers were always stamped before being handed to the voter.
  • In 100% of polling places observed, the voting screen was placed in a way that guaranteed the secrecy of the vote.
  • ECC observers noted that the finger of every voter was inked after voting in 100% of observed polling places.
  • At least two NEC staff in 47% of observed polling places were women and 20% of this number were Presiding Officer.

Closing and Counting:

ECC observers reported that 88% of observed polling places closed between 5:45pm and 6:15 pm. In 64% of observed polling places there were still voters in the queue at 6:00pm and they were allowed to vote. 

Presence of Party Agents

ECC observers reported the presence of at least one party agent at 99% of observed polling places during the opening, voting and counting processes. ECC noted that the CDC and CPP coalitions deployed nearly equal number of party agents in observed polling places followed by the Rainbow Alliance and Independent Candidates. This contributed to a level of transparency in the process.

Up to the close of the counting and tabulation of results, observers did not record any formal complaints filed by any of the contestants. In the event where a petition is filed by any contestant, the ECC will follow the adjudication process to its logical conclusion.

COVID-19 Health and Safety Protocol

ECC observers reported that NEC staff ensured that voters adhered to social distancing. However, the observers were divided on the wearing of face mask I do not understand this statement. What was the division about?  and temperatures taken before being allowed to vote in keeping with COVID-19 protocol. Did observers report that temperatures were taken before people were allowed to vote? Please clarify these points and redo the paragraph.

Recommendations  

To the National Elections Commission:

  • Provide timely information to the public on any challenges emerging on the counting and transmission of results.
  • Final and certified results should be announced in the Districts where the elections took place. This will help to build citizens’ trust in the outcome.
  • Treat all electoral disputes equally and adjudicate them in a timely and transparent manner.

To political parties and independent candidates

  • To strengthen political reconciliation, candidates who did not win should gracefully accept the results and send congratulatory messages to the proclaimed winner.
  • At the same time, if any political party or independent candidate has grievances on the outcome of the electoral process, that party or candidate should follow the laws and procedures as enshrined in the Constitution, Electoral laws and Regulations governing electoral disputes resolution.

About the ECC:

The ECC is a civil society platform, comprising six civil society organizations including the Center for Democratic Governance (CDG); Center for Media Studies and Peace Building (CEMESP); Institute for Research and Democratic Development (IREDD); Naymote-Partners for Democratic Development (Naymote-PADD); West Africa Network for Peace Building (WANEP) and the Women’s NGO Secretariat of Liberia (WONGOSOL). This observation was made possible with funding from USAID and in partnership with Democracy International (DI).

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About Cholo Brooks 15849 Articles
Joel Cholo Brooks is a Liberian journalist who previously worked for several international news outlets including the BBC African Service. He is the CEO of the Global News Network which publishes two local weeklies, The Star and The GNN-Liberia Newspapers. He is a member of the Press Union Of Liberia (PUL) since 1986, and several other international organizations of journalists, and is currently contributing to the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation as Liberia Correspondent.

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