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Senate cites NEC, others

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for bio-metric voter registration talks 

By Ethel A Tweh

The Plenary of the Liberian Senate mandates its joint committee on autonomous agencies and ways, means, finance, and budget to invite authorities of the National Elections Commission, the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, including the National Identification Registry to address the proposal for a biometric voter registration process as recommended by the NEC ahead of presidential and legislative elections in 2023. 

Plenary reached the decision on Tuesday, July 13, 2021, noting that these institutions need to work together to proffer a workable plan that will address the issue of electoral fraud and other unnecessary practices during electioneering processes. 

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Rivercess County Senator Willington Geevon Smith, a former employee of the National Identification Registry says the biometric voter registration system is the best way to proceed during elections, adding that it is void of fraudulence and double registration. 

According to him, the NIR has the capacity to conduct biometric voter registration for even authorities of NEC and other entities in the country.

However, he underscores a need for these organizations to work together in setting up the system here, as is being done in neighboring countries. 

Also speaking, Sinoe County Senator J. Milton Teahjay calls for a drastic reduction of unnecessary allocations within the proposed budget from NEC to prioritize the most essential issues such as the biometric voter registration, which according to him, will make Liberia’s electoral process credible and void of frauds. 

Meanwhile, updating the Senate with respect to the proposed budget, the chairperson for the Senate committee on autonomous commission and agencies, Bong County Senator Dr. Henrque F. Tokpah says, they have met with the authorities of NEC on several occasions and discussed the way forward to the budget submitted to the Legislature for the 2023 elections.

Senator Tokpah notes that based on findings from meetings held, the NEC wants to conduct biometric voter registration for the 2023 presidential and legislative elections at a budget of US$29.6M, with a pilot project in Rivecess County, costing US$4M, respectively. 

He says the commission has proposed to establish 14 additional magisterial offices across the country which cost US$1.2M, for which, he notes, the joint committee recommends that there should be no new magisterial areas established.

Bomi County Senator Edwin M. Snowe, in a motion, mandates the joint committee to invite relevant authorities and report to the plenary in one week. 

The National Elections Commission (NEC) had officially launched the biometric voters’ registration feasibility studies in the country prior to the Plenary’s request to invite the NEC and other stakeholders.

NEC Chairperson Madam Davidetta Brown – Lansanah told reporters on Monday, 7 June 2021 the introduction of biometric voters’ registration globally has had some advantages, among them the possibility of enhancing voters’ confidence and increasing integrity, accuracy, and transparency of the electoral process.

“Following this launch, we are hoping that the potential adoption of the biometric voters’ registration in Liberia can bring greater efficiency in data capture and analysis, and increasing security, improving the conduct of future elections,” Madam Brown – Lansanah said.

On behalf of the Board of the NEC, Madam Brown – Lansanah told reporters that NEC along with UNDP and Ecowas technical support is undertaking a comprehensive feasibility study for a potential introduction of new technology – the biometric voters’ registration in election management in Liberia.

She indicated that in the interest of transparency and national ownership, the team will meet with a broad spectrum of politicians here in Liberia for their inputs in this exercise. Editing by Jonathan Browne

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