Officials at a polling center in rural Montserrado County try to calm down a crowd of voters who had become frustrated over the slow process and disorganized queue system.
The conduct of the polls in Montserrado County Districts # 15, 16, 17 and some parts of 11 was marked by several lapses on the part of National Elections Commission (NEC) workers. In these districts, the voting process was early faced with challenges, including the late start of polls and complaints from voters over not finding their names on the voters roster. Furthermore, two voters were initially denied for over an hour from voting at the Caldwell Bethel Christian Community School because their names were not on the roster - although they had valid voter ID cards.
However, when this same situation occurred at the Maranatha, the names of the voters were recorded on a separate page on the voter roster, and they were subsequently allowed to vote. Also, when a similar situation occurred at other polling stations in Districts # 15, 16, 17 and 11, the voters were not denied to vote. Their records were immediately jotted down, and they were allowed to vote. Both schools are located in Caldwell, District # 15.
With violence playing a central theme in the history of elections in Liberia, the need for security (mainly police and soldiers) officers cannot be overstated. However, at Maranatha, there were no security personnel on the ground. Although no violent incident was reported, the question most voters had was 'what if there was a fight?' Despite this obvious lapse in planning, the voting process was peaceful and things went on smoothly in spite of the aforementioned challenges.
The issue of the photos of voters or their names not being identified on the final voters' roll that were later remedied by NEC workers was also reported at other polling stations like the Sims Community School in Caldwell, District # 15, Caldwell Assembly of God High School and the Elizabeth Tubman Memorial High School, both in Caldwell. This is one issue that the NEC would have to work on for the next election cycle, as District # 11 also reported similar situations.
Despite some polling stations opening late in Districts #16 and 17, another problem that quickly emerged early on in the voting process was the lack of poll workers in the queue to assist voters to identify which precinct or center they were supposed to vote in. This caused serious problems for voters as many of them ended up attempting to vote in the wrong rooms; at which point they were sent back outside to another queue, despite waiting in very long queues to reach that far. This caused some very tense confrontations as these people were not allowed to head into the right/correct room to vote, but were expected to start off at the back of a new line. This dilemma was not only reported in Districts # 16 and 17; it was also reported in 11 and 15.
On Election Day, as also in life, time is of the essence. However, poll workers in Districts # 11, 15, 16, and 17 were apparently not conversant with this maxim as they took almost four to five minutes just to identify a voter's name on the roster, which caused unnecessary delays and long queues. But thanks to some quick thinking, NEC presiding officers and poll workers, were able to bring these situations under control , especially the process of identifying names on the roster, which had caused the queues to swell.
Meanwhile, the standard bearer of the Movement for Progressive Change (MPC), Simeon Freeman, and the President of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL), Charles Cuffey, voted at the Lott Carey Baptist School in Virginia, District #17. Mr. Freeman was happy to report that his voting process was problem-free, adding that he is very hopeful of winning the election because he has been an advocate for the Liberian people for a very long time. Freeman said there will not be a first round winner, and is hopeful of putting up a good fight in the second round. The MPC leader said that if he loses the elections, he will continue being a businessman.
Making a comment, PUL President Charles Cuffey hailed the poll workers for doing their best to allow citizens to vote, despite the challenges.