By Patrick N. Mensah, Maryland County.
The National Elections Commission began Phase Two of the Biometric Voters Registration in Maryland and eight counties on Friday, April 21, as part of preparations for the October 10 polls.
The Phase Two BVR exercise is currently underway in Bong, Grand Gedeh, Grand Kru, Lofa, Maryland, Nimba, Rivercess, River Gee, and Sinoe Counties respectively.
The process, however, started at a slow pace, especially in Maryland County with a few challenges. Turnout, as expected, has been low so far.
Some centers still awaiting people to turn out
However, NEC workers also arrived late at some centers and in some cases, took up to hours to set up — a situation that caused some people who had gathered very early in the morning to complete the process and return to their normal activities frowned upon.
This paper has visited several registration centers and observed some challenges that might hinder the successful implementation of the exercise if not addressed.
During our visit to these BVR centers in the County, this paper noticed that NEC’s workers were seen struggling to secure enough energy supply from solar power to power their equipment, something which led to the registration starting very late at some centers.
At the Pleebo High School Center in Pleebo, it was observed that staff could not begin due to the wrong entrance of assigned staff information by the National Elections Commission. It took the intervention of their supervisor to sort things out.
Challenges on deplorable road conditions in the southeast
Expressing his frustrations, Jacob Wleh said the situation was embarrassing because he left his house as early as 6:00 a.m. to register as soon as possible and go back to attend to his business but was accorded attention up until 2:00 PM.
“I am not happy at all. The process started very late,” Wleh said. “I think there was an issue with proper training” he stressed.
He lamented that NEC should have done better by ensuring that the first day of the BVR Phase Two exercise showcased good impression rather than discouraging citizens from turning out early.
“I can say to you for free that since this morning not up to 20 persons have registered. It is now 2 pm already and I have been here since the early hours of this morning. It is very slow and there are no lines for older people, pregnant women, or baby mothers. Such people should be given first preference in activities like this. But that is not the case here,” he disclosed.
He argued that one person serving as registrar at a center with a number of people showing up to register is not good, recommending that NEC allows two or more persons to serve as registrars.
Sources told the New Dawn that some of BVR materials arrived in the County very late, which made it very impossible for NEC’s BVR staff to test the equipment ahead of time.
This paper also gathered from the social media page of the National Election Commission that their material has spent five days on the road from River Gee to Maryland.
NEC explained that though the process of the BVR started across the nine remaining counties as planned, transporting the equipment for the second phase took five days.
All trucks with the equipment left the NEC warehouse in Monrovia on 16 April 2023, on Sunday morning. However, the equipment to Maryland and River Gee reached their destinations on the same day the exercise was planned to have started on 21 April at 4 AM.
The drivers and NEC personnel spent five days on the road, sleeping on the trucks safeguarding the equipment, and doing their best to reach the destinations in time.
“We are all aware of the road conditions in this part of the country. I have been transporting different loads, but this time, it was special. I was worried about the security of the load, and we had to reach the destination in time for the second phase.
Luckily the other drivers on the road understood the importance of our mission and helped us along the way. I am happy we managed to reach the destination. This is our small contribution to our mother, Liberia,” one of the team members of the NEC transport said.
The BVR is Liberia’s first attempt to digitize and electronically create a database of voters—all in an effort to ensure an efficient and transparent electoral process and exercise is in line with Article 77 of the Liberian Constitution, covering political parties and elections.-Edited by Othello B. Garblah