EDITORIAL: As The Biometric Voters Registration Begins Today

AFTER A PROTRACTED period of conception and planning, the novel initiative of a Biometric Voters Registration (BVR) phase one process that will register eligible voters for the ensuing October 10, 2023 general elections will commence in 5 counties, including Montserrado, Bomi, Grand Cape Mount, Grand Bassa, Gbarpolu, and Margibi will simultaneously take place in all the centers in the said counties.

THIS EXERCISE REPRESENTS a departure and improvement on the voting process via the Optimal Mark Registration (OMR) that has been in place during the various electoral cycles in Liberia. Liberia’s reliance on this archaic voter’s roll, have created shortcomings and have justified calls for the adoption of the BVR in our electoral system to clean the defective voters roll and to improve the integrity, credibility, acceptability and legitimacy of the electoral process.

WE WISH TO commend the government and its development partners as well as other stakeholders in our democratic process including the various political parties, civil societies groups, the media and the citizens for this bold step aimed at not only bringing credibility to our electoral system but to also enlist Liberia among other countries that have since advanced to the use of technology to enrich their democratic culture. We see this as a major threshold in our electoral reform which marks an improved response to the desire and expectation of the electorates especially when change is needed to foster and enhance impartiality, inclusiveness, transparency, integrity or accuracy of the electoral process.

ON THE INTERNATIONAL stage, over the past decade, technology, such as biometric voter registration (BVR), has risen to meet complex electoral challenges. BVR measures and analyses a voter’s unique physical characteristics to verify their identities and their eligibility to vote. The technology targets identity theft, multiple voting and other mechanisms of voter fraud and manipulation. Yet, while BVR presents an opportunity to better secure electoral rolls and the integrity of elections, it does not come without obstacles.

CLEARLY, THE BVR despite its own challenges and the fact that it will be used for the first time in the Liberia, it is still a welcome development especially given the long history of teething problems with the security, integrity, credibility and legitimacy of national elections. We see this as a modest system meant to bring about political democratization through securitization of our electoral system.

IT CAN BE recalled that it took the intervention of the technical team from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) to undertake a rigorous voter roll clean up and updated the final register to convince the opposition block to participate in the 2020 Special Midterm Senatorial election. Even at that there were still pockets of mistrust in the database of NEC by CPP up to the advent of the process to have the biometric voter registration introduced for the ensuing 2023 elections and perhaps upward.

REACHING TO THIS point of being introduced today did not come out of the blue. There have been a lot of challenges down the line which to some extent created doubts in the mind of the people if Liberia was in fact ready for the new technology. From the fear of the lack of the right infrastructure, such as the poor energy situation and the challenges of network connectivity, to the delayed procurement process for the vendor and the lack of adequate funding from the government, no doubt it was just difficult to get to this milestone.

BE AS IT may, there is a general consensus among Liberians now that there is no going back to the OMR and everyone is keen to see the general election conducted under a more secure and confident proven system  whose results will be accepted not just by the citizens but will also meet the international best standard.

BESIDES BEING A technology, it needs human beings to make it work and there is where sincerity of purpose, the political will and the commitment to the cause of the nation come into play. We therefore urge every actor in the process, be it the government, political parties, NEC, other stakeholders and the entire citizens to get actively involved and seek means to make it work.

HAVING GONE THROUGH three electoral cycles including a transfer of power from a ruling party to an opposition dispensation, where we have had some election related issues that nearly sent the country back to our ugly past, we believe it is high time that everyone should seize the moment to embrace the technology and make sure the intended purpose of having a fraud-free election is achieved.

TO THE CREDIT of the actors so far, everything has been going on very fine. There has been mass education and mobilization from the government, NEC and even the political parties on sensitizing the citizens about the BVR and its essence as it relates to holding a free and fair election and the impact it will have on our continuous co-exist and the peace we have enjoyed under this nascent democracy.

THE BVR HAS worked in other countries whose own peculiar circumstances are similar to ours and we do not see any reason why it should not work in Liberia. This is indeed a new dawn, let us make it work.

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