By B. Linus Flomo (Intern)
The Liberia Elections Observation Network (LEON) has given its post-election day statement on its initial findings during observation of voting, close of polls, and counting, during the second round of the November 14, 2023 Presidential Run-off Election.
Banica Stephanie Elliott, president of the Federation of Liberian Youths (FLY) and member of LEON’s steering committee, read the statement on behalf of LEON, and commended NEC for deploying well-trained polling officials who adhered to the policies and procedures to deliver the presidential runoff election as it should be.
“LEON congratulates Liberians on the peaceful exercise of their constitutional right to vote and being part of the democratic process. Following the end of the presidential runoff election, LEON will issue a preliminary statement and then a final report on the conduct of elections that includes findings on the overall integrity and quality of the 2023 electoral process,” the statement read.
Elliott further provided reports from LEON’s observers in the just ended 2023 presidential runoff election.
According to her, LEON observers reported improved adherence to procedures stipulated by the National Elections Commission (NEC), incidents as reported and verified by its observers and analysts, and preliminary trends from ongoing social media monitoring. The statement followed LEON’s mid-day statement issued on November 14, 2023, with its preliminary findings from the opening of polls around the country.
“During the November 14, 2023 Presidential Run-off Election, LEON continued implementing its sample-based observation (SBO) by deploying 73 long term observers (LTOs), 53 field coordinators (FCs), and 18 mobile field observers (MFOs) to supervise and support observations from 904 short-term observers (STOs), at a statistically relevant sample of designated polling places in all 73 electoral districts. The STOs were deployed to the same 904 polling places observed during the October 10 elections.
LEON reiterates that its observers and coordinators pledged to abide by a code of conduct to maintain their impartiality.
“Furthermore, LEON is conducting its SBO guided by the Liberian legal framework and domestic and international election observation standards, and its observation approach is founded on the principles of neutrality, nonpartisanship, integrity, and independence to assess the overall quality and integrity of the 2023 electoral cycle.
“LEON’s preliminary assessment that the voting, closing of polls, and counting processes generally improved when compared to the October 10 Presidential and Legislative Elections, are based on LEON’s observers at assigned polling places from the 15 political sub-divisions across the country.
“Observations on the NEC procedures followed are based on data collected and verified as of 9:00 AM on November 15, 2023. LEON’s Election Day process data are followed by incidents reported by its observers and trends identified during social media monitoring of the electoral setting.
Voting Procedures: “LEON’s observers reported the following procedural findings from the polling places observed on Run-off Election Day. Most NEC officials “always” adhered to procedures in the eight categories listed below; however, in two categories – “Ballot Issuer Explained How to Vote Correctly” and “Voters Left Polling Place After Voting” – LEON observed compliance in approximately 78.4 percent of polling places for both points.
“The remaining six categories ranged between approximately 90.4 percent and 97.5 percent of polling places. The “mostly” category for the two lower categories was 12.7 percent and 16.1 percent, respectively, while the other six categories ranged from 1.8 percent to 5.2 percent of polling places. The range for the combined figures for procedural adherence increased from 94.5 percent to a more reassuring 99.3 percent of polling places.
“The observer data indicated that a high number of NEC officials appeared to “always” and “mostly” understand and implement the NEC’s procedures during Run-off Election Day at the polling places observed.
“Regardless, LEON remains concerned that important procedural steps were observed as “sometimes” or “never” is adhered to. For example, observers reported that queue controllers did not check for valid voter cards in approximately 3.1 percent of polling places, identification officers did not tick voter names on the final registration roll in approximately 3.9 percent of polling places, and ballot issuers did not explain how to cast a ballot correctly in approximately 3.0 percent of polling places.
“Notably, NEC officials improved on explaining the use of the tactile ballot to visually impaired voters, with observers noting that the voter aid tool was explained “always” in approximately 90.6 percent of polling places, compared to 77.9 percent during the October 10 elections. Queue controllers checking for valid voter card were observed as “always” in approximately 90.4 percent of polling places, compared to 85.3 percent in the previous elections.
LEON notes that voters departed the polling places “always” and “mostly” at a higher rate of approximately 94.5 percent, over approximately 89.4 percent of polling places observed during the October 10 elections.
LEON recommended that “NEC should improve its training methods and emphasize the needs of the visually impaired and others with disabilities, so they can more fully participate during future elections.”