The Elections Coordinating Committee (ECC) welcomes the use of the Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) for the conduct of the 2023 Presidential and Legislative Elections but with caution. The technology, if it is set up properly and in a timely manner, can add value to the quality of the electoral process thereby minimizing double registration, automatic de-duplication fraud and manipulation of the voter roll. This is the first time the National Elections Commission (NEC) will be using the technology for the registration of voters.
While the ECC commends the NEC for the transition to BVR, the process is not free of risks:
- The NEC needs to inform the public which model of the BVR that has been selected and what are the pros and cons associated with its usage.
- The NEC should inform the public about the profile of the vendor that was selected and its track record in managing a BVR system.
- The public needs to be informed on the total cost for the purchase and installation of the technology in order to assess its efficiency. This is against the background that the government has allocated US$20 Million in the 2022 national budget.
The ECC is also deeply concerned that the voter registration exercise will commence before the completion of the planned national census. Article 80 (e) of the Liberian Constitution provides constituencies be apportioned by the NEC in accordance with the new population figures. The ECC is of the view that the registration exercise should take place after the conduct of the census and demarcation of the constituencies based on the population size in order to avoid the misplacement of voters.
The ECC notes that while the BVR may eradicate double registration, it will not solve the issue of voter trucking which is associated with vote buying, a phenomenon that is becoming institutionalized in the country’s fragile democracy.
In addition, the official launch of CVE is planned for October 7, 2022. This is approximately two months to the commencement of the voter registration process which is on December 15, 2022. Considering that the NEC is moving on to a completely new system which has never been used before neither has it been piloted, two months for CVE is not sufficient to ensure adequate awareness and participation of citizens or voters.
In another development, the ECC has observed that the one-month period allocated for political campaign is not enough and should be extended to allow citizens to engage more with the candidates. The limited time for campaign also has the tendency to create increased tension as a result of two or more parties or candidates campaigning at the same time in the same location which has a potential to increase electoral violence.
The ECC advances the following recommendations for consideration:
- That the NEC strengthens its engagement with stakeholders including political parties and civil society organizations on the procurement and installation of the BVR so as to engender national ownership of the process.
- That the time for CVE be increased so that the public is properly educated on the BVR in order to mitigate some of the fears and suspicion that citizens may have about the BVR.
- That the time for campaigning be reconsidered and extended to two months so as to ensure a level playing field for all candidates and political parties.
About the ECC:
The Elections Coordinating Committee (ECC) is Liberia’s largest domestic election observation network with diverse competencies, experiences and expertise in democracy, elections and governance established since 2010. The ECC comprises of seven-member institutions and networks including: Center for Democratic Governance (CDG); Center for Media Studies and Peace Building (CEMESP); Center for Conflict Prevention and Peacebuilding (CECPAP), Institute for Research and Democratic Development (IREDD); Naymote Partners for Democratic Development; West Africa Network for Peace Building (WANEP), and the Women’s NGO Secretariat of Liberia (WONGOSOL). The ECC works in partnership with Democracy International with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).