LIBERIA: Biometric Voter’s Registration Hiccups…Citizens Express Frustration

By: Jeremiah Sackie Cooper

Montserrado: On March 20, 2023, five counties in region one (1) began the first ever Biometric Voter’s registration process. Centers were setup in Montserrado, Margibi, Bomi, Grand Bassa, Grand Cape Mount and Gbarpolu Counties to enable citizens turn up to be participate in a process which will lead to the October 2023 elections.

Centers in Montserrado County and parts adjacent were reporting huge challenges from the National Elections Commission (NEC) set up system and equipment to ensure the biometric is done smoothly.

Our reporters who toured different districts indicated there were complications with the Elections body’s printers, finger print machines and internet services to Process information of citizens who turned up to register.

This, accordingly slowed the process of registration, thus forcing citizens to stay in queues for three to four hours before completing.

Our reporters also noted that in some centers, NEC staff were issuing slips to some people to return the next day to pick up their Voter’s IDs due to the malfunctioning of the printers and other equipment.

“It is better that NEC just remain with the old system and forget this whole BVR because it is wasting our time many persons might lose interest in registering and it’s bad”, a resident of district 3 Morris’s Farm Public High school noted.

Some condemned NEC for poorly carrying out civic education on the BVR process, something they said would undermine the turn out for citizens. “ some of us don’t even know the requirements to be Registered. We heard that if you don’t have citizen ID card, NEC will not allow you to register. All these information are they say, so NEC need to do more with voters education because most people are home because they don’t know the right information “.

“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 center but no way”, Darius Howard, a resident of Morris Farm, District 3, Montserrado County added.

“It take 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.

They however used the medium to call on NEC to discontinue the biometric voter registration and introduce optical mark recognition. According to them, optical mark recognition is faster than biometric voter registration, something they said will make the process faster and allow more Liberians to get their voter registration card for participation of every Liberians in the 2023 Elections.

“This is the worst voter registration in our country’s history. The way we use to be registered is better than this”, Pa Flomo Kollie added.

Despite the numerous dissatisfaction expressed in the ongoing Biometric Voter Registration by some citizens, supervisors at these registration centres informed our reporter that the BVR is on course.

Meanwhile, reports from the five counties indicated that there huge turnout, anxiety and mixed emotions surrounding the BVR process.

This is the first time that the Liberian National Election Commission is transitioning from out optical mark recognition to biometric voter registration, where unique physical human in rmation which includes fingerprints and standardised photographs.

The first phase of the 2023 Voter Registration will run from 20 March to 9 April, while the second and final phase will begin on 21 April and ends on May 11, 2023, covering the remaining nine counties.

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