MONROVIA – As Liberians brace up to fully participate in the ensuing 2023 general election, some Liberians in the Diaspora, especially the United States of America have strongly indicated interest to vote for the candidates of their choice just as Cllr. Jerome Verdier, former Chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) has written the National Elections Commission (NEC) to express his interest in voting in the process
In a letter written to the electoral umpire through the Board of Commissioners, dated March 21, 2023, Cllr. Verdier said his letter was to “serve you notice of our intentions to participate as a voter in these in these very consequential general and presidential elections slated for October this 2023”
The renowned human rights activist, who is based in the United States of America said his decision to seek information from NEC is to know how the modalities could be achieved since there is a constitutional provision under Article 80 of the 1986 constitution that guarantees absentee voting.
“I need not emphasize that the right to vote as a citizen in the DIASPORA is guaranteed by the absentee voting clause(s) of The Constitution of Liberia (1986) and that this notice extends to and includes every other member of the DIASPORA NATION OF LIBERIANS in the Diaspora with an intention to participate in these elections.
“While your Commission struggles with the laudable concept of incorporating biometric technologies into these electoral processes, we hasten to say, the fundamentals for Biometric Data Capturing not been properly and successfully laid, your success rate, efficiency levels and product delivery will definitely be undermined, thus further complicating an already delayed process; thus raising the specter of a postponement and spinning off a Constitutional Crisis, you are uniquely situated to appreciate and envisage”, he said..
Cllr. Verdier in light of the constitutional reliance, “we will appreciate were the NEC to kindly inform us of policies, programs and procedures as to how we can exercise our Constitutional right to vote in a timely and most convenient fashion”.
Verdier who heads the International Justice Group, a good governance, rule of law and democracy advocacy institution while speaking to The Analyst said “we are willing to help NEC formulate as a system or process that will ensure diaspora Liberians exercise their franchise in a timely and effective manner”.
Article 80(c) and (d) states “Every Liberian citizen shall have the right to be registered in a constituency, and to vote in public elections only in the constituency where registered, either in person or by absentee ballot; provided that such citizen shall have the right to change his voting constituency as may be prescribed by the Legislature” while (d) “Each constituency shall have an approximately equal population of 20,000, or such number of citizens as the legislature shall prescribe in keeping with population growth and movements as revealed by a national census; provided that the total number of electoral constituencies in the Republic shall not exceed one hundred”
It is not yet clear how Cllr. Verdier hopes to make the process work with NEC since there is no precedent of it ever taking place in Liberia. Liberians in the Diaspora have for a long time made their cases for absentee voting in the past electoral cycles but none has been successful and several reasons have been cited for the inability of the electoral authority to avail the services to Liberians outside of the country.
One of the reasons has to do with logistics and infrastructure to mount the platform as even elections conducted in the country have gone through serious constraints and there has not been any provision for absentee voting in the 2023 general election.