ECC Gives Assessment of Electoral Exercise -Makes Some Recommendations

MONROVIA:  An independent local observer group, the Election Coordination Committee (ECC) yesterday issued its Midday Assessment of the general elections where it stated that the process was peaceful while the delivery of voting material was delayed in some localized zones, leading to opening of polling places as well as highlighting some critical incidents and made some recommendations to address some of the issues raised.

ECC stated that the update was based on reports that the Elections Coordinating Committee (ECC) has received from 1,159 out of the 1,200 (96%) Stationary Observers deployed to their polling places nationwide as of 2:00 pm on October 10, 2023.

“This report focuses on the set-up and opening of polling places. Percentages reported reflect percentages of polling places observed by the ECC observers who are proportionately distributed across electoral districts of the country as a whole, and do provide credible data on national trends. At this time, the ECC has received 96% of reports from its 1200 Stationary Observers”, the report said.

ECC said 98% of its observers were permitted to access and observe at their polling places though they were however not allowed in certain locations to use their phones as a result of the NEC’s directive that no phones are allowed in the polling place. The ECC observers primarily use their phones to submit observation reports to the ECC Data Center.

It said by 6:00am, 93% of all ECC Observers were at their assigned polling places and in 94% of those places, found the NEC polling officials to be present and that queues of voters outside the voting precinct at 6:00 am were reported in 93% of observed locations.

On the opening of the voting process ECC observers reported that voting generally commenced on time (before 8:15 am) in 94% of the observed polling places, 4% of polling places opened with a slight delay between 8:15 and 10 am; however, 2% of polling places were still not open at 10 am. Opening delays and disturbances were mainly caused by logistical challenges and late delivery of voting materials.

The statement further said the late delivery of material necessary for voting was observed in a few instances mostly in Grand Bassa, Sinoe and Rivercess counties leading to a relatively late opening of polling places.

“However, the majority of polling places observed had the required sensitive voting materials, including the FRR, ballot papers, indelible ink to curtail multiple voting and the accounting forms. Nonetheless, ECC observers reported the absence of the tactile ballot guide for visually impaired voters who would turn out to vote in 11% of observed polling places.

“In 67% of observed polling places, five or more NEC staff were present during set-up. Around 48% of the polling staff were women at observed polling places. ECC commends the NEC for giving women the opportunity to serve”, the report said.

ECC observers also reported that, in 37% of observed polling places, voters need to use stairs to access the polling area, which potentially poses a challenge to persons with disabilities or the elderly.

“In 98% of polling places where ECC observers are located, observers saw security personnel in the area. This is encouraging coverage by the joint security given that the provision of security is the sole responsibility of internal security agencies.

“The ECC observed the presence of party and candidate representatives in most of the polling places covered.

“The ECC Data Center is also collecting critical incident reports from all 1592 observers that are continually being processed. Generally, ECC notes that despite the peaceful conduct of voting, the process has been characterized by a few challenges.

“There were reports of isolated tension at polling places due to challenges in the proper management of queues resulting from overcrowding in some precincts.

Making further observation, ECC said In Sinoe electoral district 02, a center did not open as of 9 am, asserting the truck transporting the materials was stuck on the way. It said NEC officials attempted to fix the problem by transferring the materials to motorbikes, but the ballot papers ended up getting wet and that the ballots for the precinct were damaged, but other sensitive materials were at the time available.

“Also in Sinoe, observers reported that ballot boxes arrived by 11:30 in Nyafuel Town affecting many voting centers in that location. The ECC observers could not ascertain the center codes because they were at the time not labeled by the NEC.

“Grand Bassa Electoral District 04: a precinct experienced delayed opening due to the late arrival of voting materials. When the ECC observer contacted the NEC’s Magistrate, he could not provide clear reasons for the delayed opening. However, voters waiting in the queue remained calm.

“In Montserrado Electoral District 02, at the St. Francis School with code 30227. the ECC observer present reported the absence of security personnel and the lack of proper queue control; voters were reported forcing their way into the polling place resulting in tension”, the statement said.

Making some recommendations to address some of the issues raised, ECC urged the National Elections Commission (NEC) to take quick action to ensure that voting materials get delivered to all polling places as well as urging NEC to provide clarity on procedures for polling places that experienced delayed openings.

“The ECC calls on the Joint Security Apparatus to remain vigilant in addressing any tension that may arise at voting precincts, thereby preventing its escalation.

“Political parties’ agents and observers are encouraged to remain deployed throughout the day until the results are counted and posted”, the statement concluded

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. ECC’s members include the 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 (NAYMOTE-PADD); West Africa Network for Peace Building (WANEP), and the Women NGO Secretariat of Liberia (WONGOSOL). The ECC election observation effort is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Irish-Aid.

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