MONROVIA, Montserrado – The National Elections Commission has announced a re-run of voting for six precincts in Montserrado’s 15th district by-election.
NEC’s independent hearing officer, Mouna Ville, announced the decision on Wednesday when he ruled into the hearing of two separate complaints filed by the candidate of the All Liberian Party, Telia Urey, and independent candidate Bishop Siebo Frank following the conduct of the July 29 polls.
Urey currently leads with 42.68 percent of the total votes from 74 of 94 polling places tallied so far. She is closely followed by Abu Kamara of the Coalition for Democratic Change, who has 41.48 percent.
She, along with Frank, complained of electoral irregularities, which they claimed amounted to electoral fraud at six precincts or 20 polling places. The commission, meanwhile, quarantined the results from the 20 affected polling centers and launched an investigation into the matter on August 7.
The hearing observed the testimonies of 14 witnesses for the petitioners, including candidates Urey and Frank, while the respondents, NEC, also produced six witnesses, including its data center and training directors Floyd Sayor and James Wallace, respectively.
Lavala Supuwood served as lead counsel for the petitioners, while Teage Jalloh represented the commission. Jonathan Massaquoi also represented the interveners, the Coalition for Democratic Change, as its lead counsel.
Ville ruled that the petitioners, led by Supuwood, failed to prove their allegations against the NEC, but said the quarantined ballots in the possession of the commission could have been tampered with, considering that Sayor, as the head of the commission’s data center, failed to give exact time and date the ballots were quarantined.
NEC last update, which placed Urey ahead of Kamara, also showed a reduction in Kamara’s vote from what was previously, by 98 votes. According to an NEC release, Ville said the director of the NEC data center also failed to explain how Kamara’s total number of votes was reduced.
A re-run was ordered for the affected places within 10 days of the date of the ruling.
The co-respondents and interveners for Kamara and the Coalition for Democratic Change partly accepted the ruling. They agreed that the petitioners failed to prove their case, but took exception to the second part of the ruling calling for a re-run of the affected polling places and promised to file an appeal to NEC’s Board of Commissioners.
Although the All Liberian Party candidate accepted the full ruling, Urey said she wants the head of the commission’s data center immediately removed and replaced before proceeding to the re-run.
Featured photo by Zeze Ballah