“It was a Disaster”, Senatorial Hopeful Costa Condemns BVR Phase One Process

By: Jeremiah Sackie Cooper Gmail:jeremiahcooper105@gmail..icom

Congo Town-April 18, 2023: Montserrado County Senator Hopeful and Chairman of the Council of Patriots Henry Costa has termed as ‘Disastrous’ the just-ended phase one biometric voter registration (BVR) process. Phase one of the BVR ended in six counties from March 20-April 10, 2023, with a total of 1.4M people registering.

Speaking during a press conference on Tuesday, April 18, 2023, at the headquarters of the All Liberian Party in Congo Town, Henry Costa said that the National Elections Commission has failed to fulfil its mandate to provide a fair, transparent and efficient voters registration process.

He accused NEC of exploring a ‘rotten and spoiled system’ which he believed disenfranchised eligible Liberian voters residing in the six selected counties; something he said is a violation of their constitutional right and is responsible for the low turnout.
“We saw numerous system failures including malfunctioning biometric machines and lack of properly trained staff. The outcome of this flawed exercise is already evident in the low turnout of individuals eligible to register to be able to vote on October 10, 2023, particularly in areas where these failures were most pronounced”, he added.

Article 77 B of the Liberian Constitution enables Liberians not less than 18 years to participate and vote in public elections in the country. “All elections shall be by secret ballot as may be determined by the National Elections Commission, every Liberian citizen not less than 18 years of age shall have the right to be registered as a voter and to vote in public elections and referenda under this Constitution.”

Costa at the same time noted that there were signs of voter suppression at several centres across the six counties; which had the propensity of undermining the integrity of the electoral process in Liberia.

He also used the medium to re-echo calls made by a leader of the opposition, former vice president and standard-bearer of the Unity Party Amb. Joseph Nyumah Boakai for the phase one voter registration period to be extended to enable eligible Liberian voter to registered in accordance with the Liberian Constitution.

Costa however cautioned NEC to put in stronger measures during phase two of the biometric voter registration process which is expected to take place in the remaining nine (9) counties namely: Bong, Nimba, Lofa, Grand Gedeh, RiverCess, River Gee, Grand Kru, Maryland, and Sinoe Counties from 21 April 2023 to May 11, 2023, to avoid the reoccurrence of acts that stalled phase one voters registration process.

“There was the issue of inaccessibility of registration centres which saw far too many people having to travel long distances, especially in the rural areas, oftentimes only to be told after making the long and hard journey, that ” the system is down”. This is a clear attempt to disenfranchise certain segment of the population and undermine the democratic process. As we move forward to the second phase of the biometric voter registration exercise, we demand that the NEC do a much better job. They must ensure that the exercise is conducted with fairness, transparency and efficiency. They must take steps to address the system failure that plagued the first phase and put in place measures to prevent voter suppression,” he said.

Phase one of the 2023 Biometric Voter Registration process had been marked by several criticisms and disappointments in the systems employed by NEC. Other Liberians individually expressed ‘loss of appetite’ for the process.

“This is the worse voters registration in our country’s history. The way we use to be registered is better than this”, Pa Flomo Kollie, a resident of Montserrado County told WOMEN’s TV-Liberia.

“I have been to more than three voter registration centers and the process is very slow. The machine is off and on, nothing working. We can’t understand anything. I have spent more than five hours looking for a more active registration centre but no way”, Darius Howard, a resident of Morris Farm, District 3, Montserrado County added.

“It takes more than 30 minutes for them to register one person, this make us spend more than three hours here and because of it we can not go and hustle for our family. I am a businessman and spending more than two hours mean that I will not run my business”, Henry Johnson, resident of Coca-Cola Factory, District 4, Montserrado County disclosed.

Recently, Presidential Aspirant Macdella Cooper called for a halt to the entire process including the ongoing biometric voter registration exercise leading to the October 10 Presidential and General elections due to the failure on the part of the government to provide funding for the process to the Elections Commission.

Macdella noted that it is disheartening to Limited funding has forced the National Elections Commission to tailor the Biometric Voter’s Registration into phases across the country.

“We are six months away from Liberia’s presidential and legislative elections (scheduled for 10, October 2023)… The Government of Liberia has failed to provide the Election Commission with the necessary resources needed to conduct a transparent process and therefore they are conducting the voter registration in two phases. This should not be allowed. This is creating irregularities in the election process. We should not conduct the election until the government can confirm they have the necessary funds for the entire election. This is madness!”, Macdella Cooper emphasized.

A preliminary report on the just ended phase one of the biometric voter registration exercise indicates that a total of 1,435,209 persons registered across the phase one (6counties). 723,799 representing males while 711,410 representing females. Counties aggregated numbers include Bomi: 64,395, Gbarpolu: 50,887 G. Bassa: 157,712, G. CapeMount: 86,589, Margibi: 184,425 and Montserrado: 891,201 respectively.

This is the first time that the National Elections Commission is transitioning from optical mark recognition to biometric voters registration, which will include the unique physical human information; fingerprints and standardised photographs.

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