By S. Siapha Mulbah
During Tuesday, November 14 run-off, voting was temporarily halted at Lorma Quarter Public School in Buzzi Quarters in District 8, Montserrado County, by agents of the governing Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), over using the Final Registration Roll (FRR), which agents of the Unity Party (UP) had and they (CDC agents) didn’t have.
CDC poll watchers blocked all of the entrances of polling places inside precinct code 30359, demanding that the copy of the FRR in the possession the opposition Unity Party’s poll watchers be thrown out of the precinct or unused during the exercise.
According to presiding officers of the above-mentioned precinct, the National Elections Commission (NEC) issued copies of the FRR to all participating political parties for the use of their agents or representatives during the exercise; therefore, there was no crime to have same used to verify voters, which would promote transparency in the process.
However, following almost an hour of heated arguments or exchanges between the two political parties’ agents, the situation was resolved by the police, with the understanding that the copy of the FRR in the possession of the Unity Party’s agents be thrown out all of the polling centers inside the precinct, which was accepted.
Before then, CDC’s observers argued that they were not served the FRR by the National Elections Commission, therefore, Unity Party’s agents should not have same at the polling centers inside the precincts nationwide.
Madam Yassa Korvah and colleagues of the CDC said, “They are using the book to check people’s names and pictures while the voting is ongoing. Therefore, we will not allow any voting in this center until those books are placed outside. We do not have them; therefore, they cannot be used.”
She said during the first round of the election, CDC’s observers were stopped from entering the voting halls with the same FRR, which almost resulted into a fight with their supervisor, because she brought this same book and we did not use it; therefore, this will not happen.”
For the Unity Party, Dorbor Yasiah maintained that his party was given the Final Registration Roll by NEC to verify voters, so as for the exercise to go on uninterrupted.
He argued that the other party’s observers’ decision to go to the voting precinct without a copy of the FRR was negligence on their part, and no one should be responsible for what they or he termed as an “irresponsible act” exhibited by the poll watchers.
“This is a matter of transparency for the elections process of our country. That is why the elections commission issued this FRR to all parties in this election. They are to bring it here, verify the names of voters, and make sure that everything here is done under the law,” he said.
But the National Elections Commission in a release, said its attention was drawn to the concerns raised by the party agents that were demanding the polling staff to read out the names of voters prior to voting, so that the voters are identified on the FRR in the possession of party agents.
According to NEC, the act is against the polling and counting procedures of the Commission, and it has the propensity to expose voters to undue scrutiny by unauthorized persons, thereby jeopardizing the protection of the voters.
NEC said it also compromises the secrecy of the voting process, calling on all poling staff involved in calling out voters’ names to desist with immediate effect.
“The Commission categorically denies and rejects reports that it has signed a MoU with political parties in this Presidential Run-off Election relative to the calling of voters’ names and checking their names against the copy of the FRR issued to political parties, as this practice is against the NEC rules,” the NEC release said.