The long-awaited Special midterm Senatorial and referendum elections have ended smoothly, peacefully and calmly amidst massive turnout of voters reported around the country. Voters who turned out to exercise their franchise on their choice of senators, two representatives and to vote for or against the national referendum are now anxiously awaiting results from the December 8 polls which also saw isolated cases of fraud, The Analyst reports.
Preliminary reports from across the country so far speak of massive turnout of voters. According to our reporters at various voting precincts, voters started trooping in their numbers as early as 6:30 am to be among the first batch of people to cast their ballots and return to their planned activities of the day. The atmosphere at all the centers visited was generally peaceful.
Reports filtering in from our team of reporters who covered the Elections say the process was generally free, fair and transparent.
In five of the counties where our correspondents religiously monitored the process, it was observed that voters started turning up at polling places as early as 6:30 am. Electoral staff, party agents and elections monitors and observers were also seen at all polling rooms where voters entered to cast their ballots.
“At the polling center that I monitored, a NEC staff stood at the entrance and asked voters for their voting cards. When the staff saw the voting card, they check on a voters’ roll posted on the walls and instructed the voter to proceed to the particular room in which they would vote. Two other staff outside the voting room would check the voters ID card, while one of them would verify from a printed NEC document. When the voter entered the room, another staff took and the voter card and checked the FFR. The voter then went to another staff who handed the ballot paper which the voter would take to a concealed cardboard booth to vote. The voter again returns for the referendum ballot and enters another booth to vote. The entire process took less than five minutes,” our reporter in Grand Cape Mount County observed.
Our reporter observed party agents from the CDC and CPP, as well as elections observers in all of the voting rooms he covered.
The senatorial elections are being held to elect 15 new senators from the 15 political subdivisions of the country as well as the national referendum to vote on eight propositions sent from the executive branch of government. Further reports from the centers visited by our team have it that there has been huge enthusiasm among the citizens with elder persons up to 70 years old and young people, mostly first time voters, constituting a large component of voters in long queues to cast votes for the candidates of their choice.
Despite the optimism expressed in the conduct of the exercise thus far, it has however been reported that the voters in some counties or districts experienced some challenges to vote on the propositions in the referendum due to lack of adequate awareness, sensitization and voter’s education from the National Elections Commission (NEC). Some voters who later spoke to our reporters blamed the government and NEC for the manner and way the whole referendum issue was handled, knowing fully that the exercise was crucial to our democratic and governance process.
According to them, there will be more people getting interested in voting for candidates in the race than taking interest in voting for the referendum due to the differences in the dissemination and reception of information during the campaign and sensitization period.
Our reporters also observed that some voters were being stopped from exercising their franchise for not wearing nose and face masks to observe the health protocol for the COVID 19, despite the order given by NEC to allow all voters, even those without masks, to participate for not wearing masks.
The lack of the presence of security agents and international observers at some polling places has also been reported and may impact on the outcome of the process, according to citizens who spoke to our reporters.
Despite the massive voters’ turnout and the general air of transparency at the polling places, reports of fraud and irregularities tried to mar the process.
Two individuals were today arrested with 200 voting cards that they were distributing to voters on 19th Street Sinkor. The two are currently in police custody.
In Gbarpolu, angry voters seized ballot boxes from four polling places because they suspected some Sierra Leoneans were being brought in to participate in the elections.
A CDC party agent in Barshell School in Montserrado County District #3 reportedly beat the NEC presiding officer after the party agent was asked to leave the polling place for trying to coerce voters and threatening polling staff. Police came to handle the situation but it is not yet clear if anyone has been arrested, the Elections observers noted.
Despite these and other cases, the December 8 special senatorial midterm and referendum elections ended on a peaceful and quiet note, with the voters now anxiously awaiting the results of their hard-earned franchise.