MONROVIA: While there seems to be a consensus that the challenges being experienced in the October 10, 2023 general elections may not have any significant negative impact on what comes out of the election, stakeholders in the current electoral process international donor partners and observers have expressed dismay over the huge number of invalid votes from the various polling centers across the country, with some describing said votes as “third force” and “spoilers” taking part in the election and carting away important votes from candidates in the race.
The concerns of the stakeholders were heightened on Monday, October 16, 2023 when the Chairperson of the National Elections Commission (NEC), Madam Davidetta Brown Lassanah presented the progressive release of the results of the just ended October 10, 2023 general elections and reported that a total of 105,719 invalid votes out of the total number of xxxxx votes cast in the exercise.
From the result of the poll announced by (NEC), the total number of invalid votes recorded nationwide is also higher than the total votes cast by other top contenders outside President George Manneh Weah and his main challenger Ambassador Joseph Nyuma Boakai and include, Alexander B. Cummings of the Collaborating Political Parties(CPP), Tiawan Saye Gongloe of the Liberia People’s Party(LPP), Lusene Kamara of the All Liberia Coalition Party(ALCOP), Clarence Moniba of Liberia National Union(LINU).
With 105,719 votes out of the total 1,713,000 votes cast at the poll officially declared invalid, The Analyst spoke with some stakeholders on the reasons and implications of the invalidation of such a large number of votes.
An international observer whose institution has observed past elections in Liberia but did not want her name to be in the papers attributed the high incidence of voided or invalid votes to inadequate voter education in Liberia.
“This is something that has been occurring every election cycle since 2005 and it to do the lack of adequate voter’s education. Subsequently, the government, the elections commission, political parties and civil society groups should do more enlightenment campaigns for voters on the voting process”, she said.
Morris Kinyea Sr, a civil society activist blamed the invalid votes to the small sizes being used on the ballot papers and want the size of the ballot papers increased to enable voters thumbprint properly in their preferred party’s box.
To be able to increase the size of the ballot papers, Mr. Kinyea suggested a review of the number of parties that get on the ballot papers.
“For the fact that anyone can be a candidate doesn’t mean all the parties should get to the ballot paper,” he said. “Parties that are weak in terms of institutions and don’t even comply with the rules of their own party should be excluded.”
A retired teacher in Buchanan, Joehson Dennis said the high level of illiteracy in the country can be attributed to the large invalid votes that continue to occur during every electoral era. He said the fact that some of these cases of high invalid votes happening in urban areas show that a lot of the voters are not literate enough to tick on a ballot paper to avoid it being voided.
Before this cycle of elections, the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism (MICAT), along with the Liberia News Agency (LINA) and the state run ELBC took sensitization campaigns to the 774 local government areas of the country to enlighten voters on how they can exercise their franchise by voting correctly.
Also, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and even media houses ran jingles and lectures to educate voters. But it would appear that these efforts did not reach a large audience.