APC Condemns Voter Registration Cards

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The All People’s Congress (APC) in a press release dated 11th May, 2023 noted with utter dismay the substandard and mediocre Voter Identification Cards which the Electoral Commission Sierra Leone (ECSL) printed and issued to the electorate for the 24th June, 2023 General Elections.

The press lease stated further that the APC is cognizant of the fact that, the ECSL is charged with the responsibility of conducting National Elections. In light of conducting these elections, the Commission is also tasked with other responsibilities such as registration of voters, verification of voters’ eligibility, producing voter identification cards, and the preparation of ballot papers and other voting materials for every General Election as per the Constitution.

According to the press release, the aforementioned responsibilities are anticipated to be executed in accordance with the law and with due diligence and integrity. It is expected that such duties are to be carried out in consultation with the political parties, and this does not only promote transparency but also serves as a booster to the confidence of political parties and the electorate.

The release noted however, that disappointingly, the procurement process of these voter identification cards was unilaterally and clandestinely done by the Commission and; political parties were never involved.

The press release went further to state that, the shady procurement process explains in part, the reason for the production of the worst voter identification cards this country has ever had. It noted that almost all of the cards produced are in black and white, contrary to the colored photos that were displayed during the Voter Registration Exhibition.

It could be recalled that a good number of the cards issued, have smudged photos making it difficult if not impossible to identify the owners. Some of the cards have incorrect gender and /or addresses. The release claimed that this is a deliberate move by ECSL to refuse qualified voters whose facial photos are unidentifiable from voting on polling day.

The release added that, in addition, the APC’s Information Technology (IT) specialists have inspected the cards and noticed that, the feature on the voter identification card purported to be a security feature is bogus and not a security feature, and so, the voter registration cards have no security feature at all.

Why is the ECSL deceiving the public with purported security feature? The release went on to state that the APC has also noticed that these cards are predisposed to be counterfeited any day or at any time.

The release added that based on the findings of APC lT specialists, any local internet cafeteria can reproduce those cards at even better quality.

It noted also that the conduct of the voter verification/registration as observed created a lop-sided playıng field to disenfranchise a certain section of the electorate and that it is evident that the data for thousands of citizens who had registered in this election cycle were incomplete, incorrect or missing from the register.

In many of these instances, citizens were not allowed to do the necessary corrections or create a fresh registration. Instead, citizens were inappropriately referred to the National Civil Registration Authority (NCRA) whose mandate does not include voter registration, the release said.

It went further to state that the omission of some names from the Provisional List of Voters photo-less registration details, incomplete data, and the lack of transparency, openness, inclusiveness of ECSL in its operations, clearly suggests that the integrity of both the voter and the registration processes have been skewed and has thus compromised the entire electoral process.

According to the release, the way and manner in which ECSL removed so-called fraudulent entries in the register, including duplicates, was never publicized to allow the public and political parties in particular to scrutinize the lists and make official objections to entries they consider either fraudulent or duplicated.

Furthermore, the release maintained that providing electoral stakeholders, access to scrutinize the voter list would satisfy the electorate and political parties that the identity documents provided by the ECSL are legitimate.

The APC in its press release noted that “we are of the firmest of convictions that these voter identification cards will not make for credible elections and in that regard, and with a view to espousing credible elections, we will not tolerate the use of these voter identification cards for the forthcoming and any other elections.”

The cards, the release went on, need to be regularized, system sanitized, and political parties allowed to audit the system in order to know how many cards were produced, the securitized measures taken, and the names and appropriate addresses of the owners of the cards produced be published.

Finally, the APC in its release strongly warned that the situation be ameliorated or redressed because the APC will never allow such unprotected cards to be used as identity for eligibility in the forthcoming or any other elections in which the APC is a participant. “So, in doing the amelioration, the APC entreats you to involve every political party throughout the process. The Commission is expected to be expeditious in redressing these concerns.

“The ECSL’s unresponsiveness to stakeholders’ concerns and the failure to address them has substantially undermined public trust in the entire electoral process. The All People’s Congress, having highlighted the many concerns to be addressed in the next few days, wants to put the ECSL on notice that if the ECSL fails to address these issues within the time stated, the party will exercise its constitutional right to call for a nationwide peaceful protest to demonstrate its dissatisfaction.”

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