By Bill W. Cooper
The alarming numbers of invalid votes registered during the October 10 polls continue to raise eyebrows about the quality of voter’s education, ballot papers design and on the overall, the capacity of the Commission.
The NEC, through its Chairperson, Davidetta Browne-Lansanah, on October 24, 2023, announced a recorded number of invalid votes of 114, 639 as the final results of the October 10, 2023 Presidential and Legislative elections conducted across Liberia.
According to NEC’s website, both valid and invalid, the overall presidential votes were 1,949,155 amounting to 78.86% and the Senate reported 1,940,857 votes amounting to 78.53% while in the House of Representatives had 1,930,972 votes amounting to 78.13%.
The NEC is yet to categorize the valid against the invalid but it is reported that the invalid votes came from mainly Nimba, Cape Mount, Montserrado, Margibi and River Gee Counties.
Addressing the concern during the final announcement of the general and presidential elections first round tally results, Davidetta Browne-Lansanah’s Board of Commission (BoC) attributed the situation to limited resources citing the reduction of the Commission’s budget for the conduct of the elections.
Most of the liabilities were also directed at the citizenry including political parties but she emphasized, “I am saying this because when we earlier presented a budget to the Legislature, you people were criticizing, so, how do you expect the Commission to do 100 percent with limited budget?”
Meanwhile, Madam Browne-Lansanah explained, “The situation of this invalid votes can be traced to the citizens themselves, because I can frankly state that the Commission did all it could to ensure that Liberians are well educated about the electoral process.”
“We taught them how to vote and everything else they needed to know through our rigorous Civil Voters Education awareness across the 15 counties. And one thing to mention is limited budget, which is also one of the reasons for the high invalid votes,” she reiterated.
“So, it is now incumbent upon all of you, including the media and political parties to prevail upon the Legislature to ensure that the Commission is adequately funded to avoid the reoccurrence of such situation,” she repeated.
As the nation runs into a runoff, the NEC boss was not definite on whether or not her team was financially settled to carry out the exercise but fumbling to disclose the funds needed and/or on hand for the run-off election, she said, “As for the funds, I cannot comment on that because I do not have it on hand or before me right now, but I can assure you that once that is available, I will inform the country accordingly.”
However, with the completion of tallied votes from the total 5,890 polling places, many Liberians, including political stakeholders’ expressions of the substantial number of invalid votes seemed to be left unanswered as more doubts continue to hover over whether or not the Commission is capable of to effectively spreading out messages pertaining to the runoff to electorates at such short notice.
Recognizing the international dimension of the run-off election, the NEC also vowed to work tirelessly with international partners, electoral observer missions, and stakeholders, for the successful conduct of the election.
As Liberians prepare for this crucial stage of the country’s electoral process, it remains imperative for all stakeholders, including the public, political parties, civil society organizations, and international partners, to closely monitor the Commission and ensure a fair and transparent process.
All eyes are now focused on the NEC as it gears up for what should now be an intense runoff election between the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) and Unity Party (UP).
The NEC, by legislation, is an independent body responsible for organizing and overseeing elections activities, as well as playing a crucial role in ensuring fair and transparent electoral processes in the country.
But with the crucial runoff election scheduled to take place in the 15 days, citizens, political parties, including other election observers alike, are closely monitoring the Commission’s capacity and readiness to address the issue of invalid votes.