BVR Phase 2 on Course; NEC Assets -Provides Updates on Elections Funding, Pre-campaign Violations

MONROVIA – As Phase 2 of the Biometric Voter Registration process winds down on May 11, 2023, the National Elections Commission (NEC) says initial reports from the field show that the process has been generally peaceful and is proceeding as planned.

“As it was in the case of Phase One, commissioners and staff of the NEC are using a holistic, coordinated approach to ensure that the process remains on course. To this end, the NEC, LAXTON and Neurotechnology technical teams have put in place rapid response mechanisms to resolve challenges. By this holistic coordinated approach, we are addressing the challenges on ground,” NEC said during a press briefing held Monday, May 8, 2023 at the James M. Fromayan Conference Hall in Sinkor, Monrovia.

According to NEC Chairperson Davidetta Brown Lansanah, the voter registration exercise in Phase Two counties of Bong, Grand Gedeh, Grand Kru, Lofa, Maryland, Nimba, River Gee, River Cess and Sinoe commenced on 21 April 2023 as planned, and that the 1,015 registration centers in the nine counties have been opened for eligible Liberians to register.

She however noted that, even with this general positive outlook of the process in Phase Two, as expected, there have been some challenges at some of the centers, to include spoilage of ribbons due to the application of wrong procedures for printing, thereby also spoiling cards and cleaning materials resulting to increased demands for ribbons and cards.

“To resolve this problem, which was also observed in Phase One, the Commission immediately thereafter, internationally procured additional cards and ribbons for Phase Two process, which arrived in the country last week and were immediately deployed to the field. Similarly, voter registration centers that had excess were being redistributed to centers that had limited supplies. The few centers that experienced these challenges of printing and issuing of ID cards on the spot, continued the registration of eligible Liberians, with the assurance of issuing the ID cards at a later date. The ID cards for those registrants are being printed and issued. The Commission assures all registrants that did not receive their cards on the spot will receive them prior to the commencement of the Exhibition on 12 June 2023. The magisterial teams are working overtime to ensure that all registered Liberians receive their voter’s ID cards.

“In order to address glitches in the running of the BVR equipment, NEC, LAXTON and Neurotechnology have flown in spare parts for BVR machines. The technicians are repairing and redeploying BVR machines in real time to continue the voter registration process.

“Logistics and support to communication between the counties and among technicians at the various hubs created throughout the nine counties and those at the voter registration centers are being hampered by difficult road conditions and connectivity by mobile phones. In addressing this issue, the Commission deployed a pool of vehicles in the counties to help convey materials as well as support the retrieval and redeployment of BVR kits and management teams and technicians.

“Deduplication/adjudication of the voter registration records from the six counties in Phase One is ongoing at the NEC Data Center. The aim of this exercise is to remove all instances of multiple registration and other data cleansing processes, including the identification and removal of underage registrants. The Commission assures Liberians that the BVR system possesses the capacity to detect these instances during the above mentioned exercise. The Commission has opened its doors to all observers and stakeholders, including political party technicians that are duly accredited by the NEC, to observe the deduplication and adjudication process,” Madam Lansanah indicated.

No Extension of Phase 2 BVR

Regarding appeals from the public for the NEC to consider extending Phase 2 of the BVR exercise, the NEC boss urged all eligible Liberians in Phase Two counties of Bong, Grand Gedeh, Grand Kru, Lofa, Maryland, Nimba, River Gee, River Cess and Sinoe who are yet to register to do so before the end of the process on 11 May 2023.

“There will be no extension of the process beyond the 11 May deadline; however, on the last two day (10 and 11 May), the centers will close at 7:00 pm, instead of the regular 5:00 pm. The NEC also continues to encourage the use of the online Personal Data Entry application as an optional means of entering would be registrants’ data.  This will help to fast track the completion of their registration at the registration centers where their thumbprints will be captured, photos taken and ID cards issued,” Commissioner Lansanah said.

The Commission also sounded a serious caveat to anyone involved in or contemplating on double registering, saying they will not only be prosecuted, but would forfeit participating in the October 10, 2023 presidential and general elections.

“The Commission reiterates its earlier advice to Liberians 18 years and above not to attempt to register more than once. It is a crime to engage in multiple registration and all perpetrators will be caught by the BVR system and turned over to the Justice Ministry for prosecution. Besides, such multiple registrants will be automatically deactivated by the BVR system. In other words, you could lose the opportunity to exercise your franchise during the 10 October 2023 General Elections,” the NEC boss said.

Elections Funding Update

Providing an update on the elections funding received thus far, Commissioner Lansanah said the Government of Liberia has committed itself to fully funding the 10 October 2023 Elections.

“To date, the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) has disbursed the amount of US$47,500,000.00 (Forty-Seven Million Five Hundred Thousand Dollars) out of the US$53,000,000.00 budgeted for the fiscal years of 2022 and 2023. On Thursday, 4 May, the Minister of Finance and Development Planning assured the Commission at the National Steering Committee on Elections of his commitment of providing the balance of US$5,500,000.00 (Five Million Five Hundred Thousand) before the end of May 2023. The National Steering Committee on Elections (NSCE) is a high-level stakeholders’ committee with the primary objective to bring all relevant government institutions and key electoral stakeholders together to coordinate, collaborate and provide timely and adequate support to help ensure credible, transparent, and inclusive electoral process in 2023 as guided by law and in national interest. The NSCE is chaired by the Minister of Justice and co-chaired by the United Nations Resident Coordinator and ECOWAS Representative,” the NEC boss indicated.

Caveat on Pre-campaign violations

The NEC rounded its updates to the Liberian people by sounding a serious warning to politicians that are in the habit of jumping the gun and engaging in pre-campaign activities.

“The Commission started documenting violations of the campaign regulations as of 5 May 2023. All would-be aspirants involved in pre-campaigning must desist to avoid future embarrassment. To this effect, the NEC mandates that as of midnight on 15 May 2023, all would-be aspirants must take down or remove their billboards, posters, banners, jingles, dramas, utterances and other forms of promotional paraphernalia from where they are situated. Failure to comply with this mandate will lead to consequences for the candidate nomination process, which commences on June 14 June and ends on 14 July 2023,” the NEC boss cautioned.

Appreciating Liberians

She closed her update on progress and challenges encountered thus far by applauding Liberians for showing an unprecedented interest in the biometric voter registration process which has been introduced in the country for the first time.

“The Commission extends its thanks and appreciation to the people of Liberia for the great interest they continue to have in the conduct of biometric voter registration in Liberia. This is indicative in the high turnout during the first phase, which we are told is being replicated in the second phase, and the support that field staff are receiving from Liberians in the nine counties. We also want to extend thanks and appreciation to the international community including observers for the feedback that the Commission has been receiving on the BVR process. We also extend our thanks to the Ministry of Justice through its agencies, including the LNP, LIS, etc. that are working to ensure a violent-free process. The Commission extends thanks to the NEC staff for their diligence in support of a smooth BVR process. Finally, we say thank you to Liberians in general for their many mobile calls where issues with the conduct of the BVR process have been reported to the Commission,” Madam Lansanah stated enthusiastically.

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