Defeated opposition Liberty Party (LP) presidential candidate Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine says the entire elections [conducted on 10 October] were characterized by fraud, citing analyses of some of the record of counts which he says he has attached to a complaint filed with the National Elections Commission (NEC) on Monday, 23 October.
“Complainants say that this incident clearly suggests that in many of the places where poll watchers or observers did not return to the place where the ballot boxes were held, the Presiding Officers could have engaged in such similar conduct and manipulated the votes,” the LP alleges.
Official results released by the NEC following the 10 October polls put Mr. Brumskine at third place with 9.6 percent of the votes cast, far behind opposition Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC’s) presidential candidate Sen. George Manneh Weah (38.4 percent) and ruling Unity Party (UP’s) presidential candidate Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai (28.8 percent).
The Commission has already declared a runoff election between the two leading parties scheduled for 7 November, since none of the 20 presidential candidates could win the polls with 50 percent plus one vote as required by the Constitution here.
But Cllr. Brumskine is requesting the NEC to annul its first round results announced to the public and conduct a rerun of the entire polls due to alleged fraud and irregularities.
In his complaint before the NEC Board of Commissioners, Cllr. Brumskine raises a concern that the Voter Registration Card system employed a nine-digit numbering system beginning with the number seven and ending with the number seven, thus allegedly creating the possibility of printing 10,000,000 ballots for a country with a total population of about 4.5 million and a voter registration list of only 2,100,000.
“What was the intended use of the capacity to print about 7,000,000 more voter registration cards? Complainants say the capacity to produce the extra and outrageous quantity of voter registration cards could only have been intended to provide room for fraud, and which actually allowed fraud in the electoral process,” the LP defeated presidential candidate claims.
In Margibi County, Dwazon, District #1, Voting Precinct #24105, Polling Place #4, Cllr. Brumskine claims that the presidential record of the count shows that there were 2550 as total of unused, spoiled and discarded ballot papers, arguing on the contrary that there should not have been more than 550 ballots at any polling place.
In Bong County, Tokpaipolu Public School, District #6, voting precinct #06113, polling place #1, he adds that the presidential record of the count there shows that there were 1,109 ballots cast in favour of CDC’s Sen. George Weah, when there should not have been more than 550 ballots at any polling place.
Further providing claims of other specific incidents of fraud in the 10 October polls, the LP leader says after voting ended at precinct #30073, Barnesville Public School, polling place #3, Montserrado County, the ballot box was sealed with numbers read as Pre–046330 – front, Pre–046324 – right, and Pre–046335 – left before party representatives left the polling place.
The LP claims that unfortunately for the Presiding Officer, a poll watcher returned to the polling place only to find the Presiding Officer’s hand in the ballot box, having allegedly broken the seals. According to Cllr. Brumskine and his LP, the numbers of the second set of seals that was placed on the ballot box read Pre– 046324, Pre-027338, Pre-027323, and Pre– 046336.
“Complainants submit that this clearly places the elections in doubt and deprived it of legitimacy, requiring a rerun, and the Complainants so pray,” the LP continues. The party recalls how an NEC Presiding Officer Josephus Cooper of Nimba County electoral district #3 was allegedly arrested with pre-marked ballots in his possession, some of which he had allegedly already deposited in the ballot box.
In Zota, Polling Place #3, Precinct Code #06102, Shankpallai Town, District #4, Bong County, the LP complains that on Wednesday morning, 11 October, following the close of the polls and counting of ballots, it was noticed that the NEC Presiding Officer, Joseph Karlon was carrying a presidential ballot box on a bike.
When confronted and interviewed, the LP claims that the Presiding Officer stated that the ballot box was left behind, and that he had gone alone without being accompanied by a police officer to pick up the ballot box on a bike. At voting Precinct #30121, Polling Place #3, Paynesville Community School, Montserrado County, the LP notes that the Presiding Officer Moses Cooper forwarded report to the Collation Center at SKD Stadium that the LP’s representative candidate Kwisi Johnson received no vote.
But the party observes that when questioned at Collation Center, the Presiding Officer allegedly stated that the record of count from the polling place was missing. When the ballots were recounted, the party says LP’s candidate Kwisi in fact had 28 votes, and not zero as reported by the Presiding Officer. Having cited such instance, the LP wonders how many of such fraud was committed around the country will never be known under the circumstances.
The party cites Articles 77(b) and 80(c) of the Constitution, Section 4.8(2) of the enabling Elections Law, saying Article 6 of the Regulation on Polling and Counting provides that voting shall commence at 8:00 a.m. and close at 6 p.m., provided that the last person in queue at 6:00 p.m. shall be permitted to vote.
But the LP argues that the NEC failed to adhere to the regulation and in many instances the polls were allegedly opened as late as late as 3:00 p.m., clearly to the detriment of the registered voters, many of whom Cllr. Brumskine and his party claim are members of Liberty Party.
The Complainants are alleging that many of these registered voters had shown up to exercise their constitutional right and political franchise, but the consequence of the late opening of polls by the NEC was that most voters, especially the elderly, disabled, and infirm, after having stood in line for hours, were effectively deprived of their constitutional right to vote.
The party alleges that people were constrained to leave the polling places, believing not only that such polling places would not be opened, or that the location of the polling places had been changed, as was allegedly done in other cases, but also that such act by the NEC, may have created or could have created health problems for them.
The party contends that the opening of the polls at various times, some at 8:00 a.m., others at 1:30 p.m., and yet others at 2:30 p.m. at various locations in the country deprived voters who were registered to vote in such locations of equal protection under the law.
The LP claims that the process was exposed to high prospects of vote manipulation, further accusing the NEC of violating the laws substantially and effectively, depriving voters of their constitutional right to vote.
LP argues that the Elections Law, enacted by the Legislature under authority of the Constitution, imposes upon the NEC the duty and the obligation not only to conduct public elections, but importantly to ensure that the electoral process is fair, transparent and is not tainted with any semblance of malpractice or fraud.
The party argues that under the law, any political party or candidate who has justifiable reasons to believe that the elections were not impartially conducted and not in keeping with the Elections Law, which resulted in his defeat or the defeat of a candidate shall have the right to file a complaint with the Commission, and that such complaint must be filed not later than seven days after the announcement of the results of the elections.
By Winston W. Parley-Editing by Jonathan Browne