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Prisoners get voting right

For the first time in the history of Liberia, pre-trial detainees will be allowed to vote inthe October 10 representatives and presidential elections, based on a decision reached by the House of Representatives.

The House has endorsed a bill filed by Bong County Representative George  Mulbah to grant pretrial detainees rights to vote in the upcoming elections. But the House’s decision to allow pre-trial detainees to vote does not include  Liberians who have been indicted or convicted for infamous crimes.

In a communication dated January 12, 2017, the Bong Lawmaker pleaded with  the Plenary of the Lower House to mandate the National Elections Commission or NEC to make allowance available for the opening of registration centers and  subsequent voting of pre-trial detainees held at all prison facilities in Liberia.

Rep. Mulbah had insisted that article 77(b) of the 1986 Liberian Constitution and  Section 5.1 of the new elections law explicitly provide the legal backing for his  argument.

Upon his request, plenary requested the committees on Judiciary and Elections  and Inauguration to conduct a proper legislative investigation to report in two  weeks with findings and recommendations. The Joint Committee’s report necessitated a public hearing on25 January duirng  which the Ministry of Justice, NEC, Carter Center, Liberia National Bar  Association and the Law Reform Commission were invited.

Following the hearing, the Plenary of the Lower House voted with 18 for, one  against and seven abstained. During separate presentations made at the hearing, Bar President Cllr. Moses  Paegar and his team affirmed the validity of Rep. Mulbah’s suggestion that  Pre-trail detainees had rights under the laws to participate in the decision –  making process.  
Citing Chapter 5 Section 5.1, the Bar Association said those who have been  judicially declared to be incompetent or of unsound mind, or who have been  barred from voting as result of conviction and imprisonment for infamous crime  cannot be allowed to vote.

The Bar said such people are disenfranchised as voters once their rights have not  been restored to full citizenship. Having being convinced by presentations from the invited institutions, the  chairman on Judiciary Rep. Worlea Saywah Dunah said only those indicted for  Infamous crimes should be stopped from participating in elections.

By Bridgett Milton -Editing by Winston W. Parley

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