GBARNGA, Bong – The Elections Coordinating Committee has concluded a policy dialogue with more than 60 representatives of political parties, civil society organizations, local government officials, youth groups, and women organizations in Gbarnga.
Eddie Jarwolo, an official of the ECC, said the policy dialogues are being held in eight counties: Bong, Grand Bassa, Margibi, Nimba, Bomi, Grand Gedeh, Montserrado, and Lofa.
[Disclosure: the author of this article is the county coordinator for the ECC in Bong County.]
Jarwolo, who served as the lead facilitator, explained that the forums are designed to educate the representatives of political parties, CSOs, and the media on the importance of the exhibition process to citizens as well as the Corrections, Claims, and Objections process.
The exhibition process is a period when the voters registration list will be published for the public to examine and bring any objections to names listed. For example, objectors may identify voters who do not reside in a particular district or who are not Liberian citizens.
“Political parties, CSOs, and [the] media need to educate citizens on the importance of the exhibition process and how, who, where, and when to file an objection.
“This is why the ECC is making sure that citizens across the country clearly understand how to conduct civic education on the exhibition process and how to file an objection,” Jarwolo told the gathering during the opening.
He also said the ECC is informing participants that the person who puts forth the challenge during the exhibition period, must prove all challenges in person, adding that the determination of objections, shall be made at the magistrate’s office in a period which shall be announced and posted at the office.
Objectors must appear in person and the magistrate will notify the person who is objected that the burden of proof is on the objector. The person whose registration is being contested must therefore have the chance to refute all evidence provided and if one or both parties is not present, the magistrate will proceed with determination.
If the objection is denied, the reasons for the denial must be made known to the objector and recorded.
Reasonable challenges would be based on the nationality of an applicant not being Liberian, the age of applicant not being the required voting age, a questionable mental health of the applicant, and the applicant being a felon or convict.
The National Elections Commission has set June 12-17 as the date for exhibition of provisional registrations.
The ECC will observe the entire process across the 73 electoral districts, focusing on claims and objections while encouraging political parties to also observe the process that would raise the standard of transparency and openness of the electoral process.
ECC also used the forum to share its findings of the voter registration observation with the participants. Jarwolo said the ECC deployed a total of 89 district and county observers during the voter registration process across the country.
“The ECC observed 849 of the 2,080 voter registration centers in the 73 electoral districts in the country and documented an observation report,” Jarwolo said.
Participants lauded the ECC for the initiative and vowed to reach out to citizens with more awareness.
“We say thank you so much for coming to explain these things to us. This is what we want, when we ourselves understand these issues like this, we are able to educate our people,” said Mary Larteh, the paramount chief of Jorquelleh Chiefdom.
She encouraged representatives of political parties to explain the importance of the exhibition and objection to their supporters to take advantage of the process.
ECC is providing awareness and opportunities to registered voters and the public to confirm that NEC has correctly recorded information about them as well as, providing an opportunity for the public to check the accuracy of the work done.
The ECC remains the single largest professional civil society platform monitoring, documenting, and reporting all aspects of the electoral process and has deployed over 4,000 observers during the 2011 and 2014 elections in Liberia.
Members of the ECC include; West Africa Network for Peace Building, the Women NGOs Secretariat, Action for Genuine Democratic Alternative, the Center for Democratic Governance, and the Center for Media Studies and Peace Building.
Others are Naymote Partners for Democratic Development and the Institute for Research and Democratic Development.
The work of the ECC is done in collaboration with the National Democratic Institute, with support from the United States Agencies for International Development.
Featured photo courtesy of Eddie Jarwolo