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Peaceful & Smooth …Reports From Polling Centers Indicate

Polling centers in yesterday’s special senatorial and by-elections as well as the National Referendum indicate that the process was smooth and peaceful.
Our reporters who covered some of the counties mainly Montserrado, Nimba, Grand Bassa, Margibi and Bong counties reported that voters in those areas exhibited a high level of respect and orderliness during the process.
It was also observed that voters stood by the NEC guidelines and regulations by not wearing parties’ T-shirts or carrying out any form of campaign though health regulations were not adhered to in several of the precincts.
However, reports from few counties suggested that there were irregularities though according to the NEC boss, the commission was knowledgeable about them that that they were all under control before the end the voting process on yesterday.
Like for a center in Gbarpolu County, two of the ballot boxes were seized by residents on grounds that some individuals crossed over from Sierra Leone and were participating or attempting to participate as Liberians in the elections process.
Another incident occurred in Montserrado County District # 9 where an individual allegedly noticed that he was presented an already marked ballot in favor of the CDC senatorial candidate and he had to return it to the polling staff who immediately changed it and give him a new one in the presence of observers while the ‘ghostly’ marked ballot was placed into a tampered bag.
In another precinct, a man was discovered with several voting cards and arrested by those who had gone to vote and turned over to the officers of the Liberia National Police while another individual carried more than one ballot papers and after receiving that which was given him by the polling staff, he was booked trying to place all of the ballot papers including the hidden ones in the box.
It was also observed that elderly people were confused over the many ballot papers given to them to mark and at one polling center in Buchanan, a very old lady continued asking a polling staff what is to be done on the ballot only to be told to go and mark them; apparently the NEC officer feared being alerted of trying to cheat.
While polling staff especially at the four Houses Road Polling Center and the Pavilion Polling Centers were seen asking electorates which of the ballot papers they wanted; speaking of the referendum or the senatorial ballots.
The electorates who apparently did not understand or were with the mindset of not voting for the referendum, only accepted the senatorial ballots leaving the referendum ballot with the polling staff which signals that more referendum votes might not come from the counties due to lack of adequate awareness.
Meanwhile, two acclaimed elections monitoring institutions; Elections Coordinating Committee (ECC), the Elections Monitoring and Violence Prevention, reported that the Special Senatorial Election and National Referendum, described the beginning of the process as peaceful and smooth across Liberia.
In their preliminary reports presented on yesterday, the Elections Monitoring and violence Prevention Situation Room during a press conference commended the NEC as well as local and international observers and all eligible voters.
Reading a statement on behalf of the Situation Room, the group’s chairperson, Rev. William R. Tolbert III, disclosed that the timeline and the presence of the joint security were all indications of the seriousness that the Liberian government and eligible voters placed in preparing for the elections and their anticipation of its peaceful outcome.
Meanwhile, the Situation Room says, it takes particular interest in the Monday evening’s nation address by the President George Weah in which he called on all eligible voters to use their ballot and not violence to choose their leaders.
The ECC said that based on the reports received from 476 out of the 498 rapid response observers deployed to polling places proportioned nationwide showed that the process start was peaceful while cataloguing fewer irregularities in some areas.
The ECC observes reported that voting generally commenced on time in the most of the observed polling places.
Reading the ECC press statement, Acting Chairperson of the Steering Committee, Harold Aisdoo, indicated that by 7:30 A.M. 91% of the polling places were reportedly opened and an additional 58% of the polling places between 7:45-8:15 A.M. and that only 1% of the polling places was reported to have started after 10 A.M.
“ECC continues to collect and process these reports. Thus far, critical incident reports have included few of the observers not permitted to observe due to wrong names printed on accreditation tags by the NEC, isolated tension at polling places where voter where voter attempted to vote using the 2011 voter card but was denied by NEC officials and voters not adhering to social distancing,” the report indicated.
President George M. Weah who usual casts his vote at the Kendeja High School along with Montserrado County Senator, Abraham Darius Dillon and District #5 Representative, Thomas Fallah have admonished Liberians to remain peaceful after casting their votes as they patiently await the outcome of the elections.
Several Liberians across the country on yesterday, went to the polls to select 15 new Senators and two Represent from Montserrado County District #9 and Sinoe County District #2 as well as the amendment of the 1986 Constitution through a National Referendum through the ballot box.
The Liberian Chief Executive urged Liberians including political pundits to do away from instigating violence for the betterment of the country pointing out that the country has sacrificed a lot in maintaining its fragile peace and called on everyone to join in maintaining the peace instead of instigating violence for “selfish political interest.”
He warned that his government through the joint security will not hesitate in punishing would-be violators during and after these elections in accordance with the rule of law.
One of the senatorial candidates of Montserrado County, Abraham Darius Dillon, who voted in the Bardnesville area, urged Liberians to re-fringe from electoral violence as it has the propensity to undermine the country’s democracy.
The incumbent senator who is contesting to retain the seat added that it is prudent that citizens do away with violence or acts that will result into violence and urged the government through the NEC to ensure that the voting process is free, fair and transparent in order to avoid confrontation from electorates.
One of the major contenders in the Montserrado County senatorial race, incumbent Representative, Thomas Fallah who voted at the 72nd Public School is also in calling on Liberians including his partisans not get involved with electoral violence urged Liberians to excise restraints and trust in the electoral process of the country.
Meanwhile, serious words of words ensued between the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) Representative candidate Frank Saah Foko, the NEC presiding officer and two of the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) poll watcher during an incident triggered by an allegation of candidates receiving only two ballot papers instead of three.
It was alleged that a CDC candidate who had gone to cast his ballot at the St. Mark School, tried intervening and that sparked up the commotion thereby angering the CPP observer on grounds that the CDC candidate was obstructing the electoral process.
According to our reporter, the situation which brought the voting process to a standstill for almost 30 minutes was later calmed by officers of the Liberia National Police with clarity from the NEC Polling Officer in that center.
In the PO’s justification, she explained that as per their training, two ballot papers representing that of the referendum and the senatorial candidates were to be given first to each voters to mark before issuing them the one for the representative candidates as a means of helping voters not to be confuse on the voting process.
The CPP poll watcher who on several occasions described journalists providing coverage at that center as “Gang of Journalists” decried that the presence of the CDC candidate was a complete distraction and a cleaver attempt to undermine and obstruct the voting process and as such, they were demanding that he cast his vote and leave the center as others have done earlier during the morning hour.

In reaction, the CDC candidate, Foko said his presence was only intended to observe and inquire whether or not the allegation was true as well as to also cast his ballot noting, “It was just unfortunate that things went the way it went but I thank God that it was calmed and that residents of the district continue their voting process; though the NEC worker and the CPP observers behave arrogant towards me.”

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