MONROVIA: The last couple of days witnessed heightened anxieties in the country as some politicians and their apologists took to the social media to voice apprehensions over what they consider delays in the publication of the 2023 Final Registration Roll (FRR) containing all Liberians registered by the National Elections Commission (NEC). Political backlashes bordering FRR contentions usually breed vicious tensions in elections, as was seen in neighboring Sierra Leone this year, particularly for unscrupulous individuals and groups that are in the business of find pretext and alibi for political disruptions. It seems the NEC is on top of the game, and before the noise around FFR ever got heated up, a press briefing was called and the Chairperson of the Commission spoke to the issue, calming nerves and trepidations. The Analyst’s Salui Swaray reports.
The Chairperson of the electoral body, the National Elections Commission (NEC), Madam Davidetta Brown-Lassanah, has assured Liberians that the Commission would soon publish the Final Voters’ Registration Roll but that some calm is needed while technicians are working around the clock to have this vital document available.
The announcement by the NEC allays fears in some quarters that the Voter Roll, as required by law, would not be available before the October 10, 2023 elections.
Information obtained from the social media which has gone viral has it that some people expressing their displeasure were mobilizing people to march at the national headquarters of NEC today, Friday, September 22, 2023 to demand for release of the FRR.
Though the exact date of the exercise as per the NEC Key Elections Date can hardly be established, there have been open expressions of ire particularly on the social media on what they considered to be delays.
Speaking yesterday, Thursday, September 21, 2023, during a press conference held in the James M. Fromoyan Conference Hall at NEC National Headquarters in Sinkor, Madam Brown-Lassanah said the commission has put to work a team of personnel working 24 hours on three shifts to ensure that the Final Registration Roll is printed and pasted at each of the 2,080 Voting Precincts prior to Election Day.
“As has been with past elections during which time the commission made available electronic copies of the Final Registration Roll(FRR) to political parties, independent candidates and other stakeholders, the Final Registration for the 2023 Presidential and Legislative Elections will be made available to all concerned,” according to her.
She further added that the Technical Team of the NEC was working to have the Biometric Voter Roll placed in a secured format, and the same will be made available to all stakeholders as soon as possible.
The NEC boss used the occasion to inform the public that the Voter Check platform (https://necliberia.org), where an individual voter can check his or her personal voting information, was published on the website of the National Elections Commission on 11 August 2023.
She called on registered voters who wish to access their information to visit the platform, enter their Voter ID number, year of birth and view their information.
Madam Lassannah told the media that in the NEC’s continued drive to keep the public abreast of preparatory activities leading to the 2023 General Elections, the Commission will commence a Weekly Press Briefing on the status of the electoral process beginning Tuesday, 26 September 2023 at 11:00 am at the NEC Headquarters.
“The NEC invites the media, local and international partners and observers, as well as political parties’ representatives to these weekly press briefings,” she said.
The press briefing coincided with concerns from some quarters that the delay in the publication of the FRR is a violation of the elections law which stipulates that the roll should be published and also made available to all concerned at least 30 days to the holding of the election.
With the election nearly 20 days away, the NEC is likely to come under continued pressure to ensure the expeditious finalization and publication of the Voter Roll so that it does engender distractions and unnecessary tension.
The issue of Final Registration Roll caused costly commotion during elections in neighboring Sierra Leone held mid this year. The results of the elections are still under protests by national and international stakeholders.
Some Liberian politicians and their supporters claim that the October polls would not be transparent and credible without knowing the total registered voters.
Knowing the number, they say, will help observers and monitors track voter movement and reporting and will avert a prototype of the 1927 elections in which those who cast their votes were more than registered voters and the entire population of Liberia at the time.
It seems however that that is unlikely to be the case in the 2023 elections because the NEC has promised to ensure that the final list of Liberians who registered to vote will be released to the public.
The NEC reiterated its determination to ensure that transparency, accountability and fairness will characterize the 2023 elections.
Those familiar with the VRR brouhaha say the NEC is not under any specific mandate by law to publish the Roll on the 18 of September except for the 2017 Supreme Court edict which calls on the NEC to publicize it a day or two before elections day.
This is why, according to sources, there is no specified date on the Commission’s Key Dates of Activities.
What is NEC is to actually release as per law and the Electoral Timetable, according to sources, is the list of precincts, which is a bit delayed from its September 18 date but coming very soon.
It can however be recalled that the Chairperson of the NEC, while at a public hearing at the Senate, assured the lawmakers the Commission would make available the Roll earlier than mandated by the Supreme Court, and that she gave the assurance to the senators out of mere goodwill towards transparency and honesty.
Some pundits say it is clearly impossible for the NEC to publish in newspapers or to placard at polling stations the VRR that contains nearly 2.5 million registrants.
Other pundits contend that distributing the VRR is a risky venture, for it can fall to manipulation of unscrupulous individuals and groups, and that the NEC needs to amply careful to encrypt the document if it intends to release it.