The issue of politicians trucking voters from one location of the country to another to register and vote for cash benefits has always plagued the Liberian electoral process. But the pronounced and unashamed involvement of politicians in the trucking of voters for payment during the recent Voters’ Roll Update and Registration process has raised serious concerns from many quarters, with Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor adding her voice to the debate by sending words of caution to the mostly youthful voters against selling their dreams, hopes and aspiration for quick-fix cash benefits.
Taking to Instagram on Monday as she recovers from COVID-19 in Accra, Ghana, Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor warned that the right to vote is one of the most important human rights of mankind, because it sets the basis for better or worse.
“This right should not be squandered, wasted, sold or taken for granted. For upon it lies the fulfilment of dreams or hopelessness. As Nations vote in 2020, please vote for the best and brightest in your Nations; and do not compromise for any reason. For there are consequences after one votes. A hint to the wise is sufficient,” VP Taylor cautioned.
The counsel from Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor comes in the wake of the recent mass trucking of voters from Montserrado and Margibi Counties to Bomi, Grand Cape Mount and other parts of the country, reportedly for as little as 1,500 Liberian Dollars and a promise of meal just to register in locations where they do not reside, and where their decisions to register and vote could negatively offset the electoral process against the rightful inhabitants of those areas that are supposed to vote for the right candidates they trust to deliver.
While the National Elections Commission itself has admitted that the trucking of voters to locations where they do not reside is against the law, the electoral body says complaints have to be filed with the NEC before action is taken.
However, countering the statement from the NEC Communications Director to the media, that the NEC has not received any formal complaint about voters trucking, Unity Party Secretary General Mo Ali on Monday disclosed on a local talk show that the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) has filed several complaints to the NEC about voters trucking and the registration of voters in Sierra Leone to participate in the electoral process in Grand Cape Mount, but that the NEC has failed to even acknowledge any of the CPP complaints.
“Not even one line has the NEC written to respond to our numerous complaints,” Mr. Mo Ali stated categorically.
Under the Electoral Reform Law of the Republic of Liberia amended in 2014, punishments are clearly spelt out in Chapter 10, titled ‘Election Offenses’.
Section 10.2 relating to Offenses in Relation to Registration Cards states that; Any person who does any of the following acts shall be guilty of an election offense and punishable by a fine or sixty (60) days imprisonment or both: (a) Printing or distributing any registration card; (b) Altering any registration card; (c) Using or attempting to use at any election, a registration card issued to another voter.
Section 10.4 subtitled ‘Bribery’ says: For the purpose of this title, bribery as an election offense is where any of the following acts is committed: (a) Offering or cause to be offered money or anything of value or benefit or promise to give anything of value with intent to induce or influence any person; election officer; poll worker in connection with an election which in so doing will tend to affect the true election results; (b) Receiving money or any valuable consideration; promise for the purpose of influencing any vote or cancelling or destroying any ballot paper; ballot box; election writs; a signed register with the intent to defeat the election; and (c) After close of campaign, and on the day of an election, anyone who offers money or receives money or valuable consideration for the purpose of influencing the voters to vote or not to vote, for a particular candidate. Any election officer, political party or any candidate or the agent of any candidate or any person who does any of these acts is guilty of an election offense and is punishable by a fine or imprisonment for not more than five (5) years or both. In addition to the forgoing penalty, anyone guilty of bribery as an election offence shall be disqualified from holding any elective public office in the Republic of Liberia or from voting in any elections held under this law for a period of seven years.