Liberia: Will Supreme Court Demand Cleaning of Voter Roll?

(File photo).

The validity of the Final Registration Roll (FRR) is the final point of contention between the NEC and the complainant parties, LP and UP.

It is widely believed that the pending judgment by the Supreme Court could likely demand the National Elections Commission (NEC) to clean up the Final Registration Roll (FRR).

This is important because instead of a re-run of the October 10 presidential and legislative elections that have been challenged on grounds that the entire voters' roll was marred with fraud and irregularities, their clean up could restore confidence in the electoral system.

The court is expected to rule in the matter on Thursday, December 7.

Both Liberty Party (LP) and the ruling Unity Party (UP) have repeatedly accused the Commission of tampering with the FRR on the basis that people whose names were not found on it the FRR were recorded on sheets across and allowed to vote during the October 10 representative and presidential elections.

It may be recalled that, in the Republic of Ghana, the Supreme Court there decided a similar matter in 2012, when the current President Nana Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) challenged the victory of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) of President John Dramani Mahama, who was recently defeated.

At the time, Addo had argued that the voter roll was messy and completely incorrect as provided for by the Ghanaian electoral laws.

Addo filed his complaint before the Supreme Court and argued that widespread irregularities should invalidate the results. The judicial dispute, which went on for eight months and was broadcast live on television and radio, highlighted significant flaws in the country's electoral system.

The Court after a thorough investigation discovered that the FRR had problems but it did not cancel the results, however, but demanded the electoral body to clean up the FRR and this took the National Electoral Commission (NEC) of the country eight months to do so.

In May of 2016, Ghana's Supreme Court directly repudiated the commission by ordering it to remove and re-register all voters who in 2012 had signed up using their National Health Insurance Scheme Cards, which the court determined to be invalid proof of identity.

Meanwhile, when the NEC's Executive Director Lamin Lighe was contacted by this newspaper with reference to the situation that occurred in Ghana in 2012, he claimed that Ghana's case differs from Liberia's and, as such, there will be no need for cleaning up the FRR.

"The FRR has no problem and so there will be no need for any so-called cleaning up. It is perfect and up to the standard that truly reflects the workings of the Commission," Lighe said.

He added that the few names which appeared with the same ID numbers came as a result of errors because of typing over two million names. He argued that that number is not all too significant to nullify the work of the Commission.

"One thing people have to understand here is that even if a few numbers of persons bear the same VR identification numbers, other features will definitely be different from each other. The faces and ages, for example, can in no way be the same," he noted.

At Friday's argument, Counselors Benedict F. Sannoh of UP and Oswald Tweh of LP said the NEC unconstitutionally added tens of thousands of names on the subpoenaed flash drive it submitted into evidence, thereby contradicting the figure on the flash drive given to seven of the twenty political parties.

In counter-argument, the NEC's lead lawyer, Cllr. Frank Musa Dean, strongly disagreed with the two complainants.

Dean argued that the addenda (additional lists of names of voters) created were not unlawful as considered by the LP and UP. He said the addenda came as a result of names of voters not found on the FRR due to their queuing at the wrong places on voting day.

He noted that the names of those listed on the addenda were later found on the FRR.

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