LIBERIA: NEC dragged to Supreme Court

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With 13 more days to Liberia’s Presidential and Legislative Elections slated for October 10, the country’s main opposition party – Unity Party has filed a writ of Mandamus before the Justice In Chamber – Jamesetta Wolokollie against the National Elections Commission (NEC) thru its Chairperson Davidetta Brown Lassanah over the failure to release the final voter roll or final registration roll (FRR).

Writ of Mandamus is a judicial remedy in the form of an order from a court to any government, subordinate court, corporation or public authority to do some specific act which that body is obligated under the law to do and which is in nature of public duty and in certain cases. Also Mandamus is a judicial proceeding to coerce the performance of duties devolved by law upon public officials.

According to the UP, it is the duties devolved on NEC through the New Elections Law and as well as the Highest court in Liberia (Supreme Court) to publish and submit to all political parties and independent candidates copied of the FRR of all registered voters disaggregated by locations in every electoral district in the country.

The Final Registration Roll/ Voters Roll is a list of all registered Liberians / voters who have registered, qualified, and authorized to vote during election slated on October 10, 2023. The FRR/VR captures basic information relating to voting precincts, polling places, voters per polling place, names, photos, VR numbers, etc. The VR is done after exhibition process, decision(s) on voters’ appeal(s), claim(s), challenges and required changes to the provisional registration roll.

The UP recalled that on August 29, 2023, Madam Brown Lassanah appeared before the House of Senate under oath and faithfully promised to provide the FRR on the 18th of September 2023 but has failed to do so.

The party indicated that on September 18, its standard bearer Mr. Joseph Boakai communicated to NEC requesting the FRR, but the Commission has failed as per its statutory responsibility with few days to the election.

Petitioners (Unity Party) mentioned Section 16.1 of the 2023 Voter Registration Regulations which is a mandatory procedure that should be undertaken by NEC. “NEC may take necessary measures to clean/correct any inaccuracies discovered on the voter roll should not be allowed by the Court; and that the Court should declare it a mandatory process as this process borders on the integrity of the votes on election day.”

The petitioner furthered that Section 16.5 of 2023 Voter Registration Regulations says that the FRR for each magisterial area shall be available at that magisterial office for public inspection during normal business hours. And Section 16.6 provides that the NEC may provide stakeholders with electronic copies in colors of the Final Registration in a secured form.

The Petitioners emphasized that with another pronouncement made by Madam Brown Lassanah on September 21, 2023 of publishing and issuance to the FRR/VR to Political Parties and Independent Candidates yet it has not been done, which amounts to an irregularity that will undermine the integrity of the votes on election day.

Making reference to Liberty Party and NEC case which was heard by the Supreme Court, the court mandated and ordered NEC to fully comply with the standards of publications of the FRR to conduct a full clean-up of the FRR to ensure that multiple names of identification number are removed and the FRR be made available in published hard-copies to all Election Magistrates and polling places across the country in accordance with law prior to any run-off election being held, adding that the FRR is the only electoral document that speaks to the eligibility of voters, the NEC is hereby prohibited from permitting anyone whose name is not found on the FRR to vote.

Meanwhile, the UP prayed that Justice Wolokollie issue the Alternative Writ of Mandamus against NEC along with its Commissioners ordering and mandating them to appeal and show cause why the Mandatory Writ of Mandamus should not be issued against them to perform the legal to publish and issue out the FRR. Also perform its specified legal duties to have the Final Registration Roll of certified voters by location published and distributed to Political Parties and Independent Candidates in keeping with law.

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