Botota – Bong County Electoral District #1 Representative Albert Hills says electorate of Bong County must remain committed to multiple recommendations they have made on electoral reforms, adding that their suggestions can become referendum issues.
Representative Hills made the call recently in Botota at an interactive forum organized by his office to weigh-in his constituents’ understanding of Liberia’s electoral reforms issues.
Several locals attended the event including local chiefs, elders and district leaders.
Moses Kerllen, Commissioner of Tokpaplee district, said he wants the tenure of senators reduced from nine to six years and Representatives from six to four years. He added that bad road condition is one of the many challenges faced by voters on elections day while calling for change in the election date from October, which is during the rainy season, to December – a month in the dry season.
“The National Election Commission (NEC) should ensure that all complaints and appeals about candidate registration are adjudicated prior to the start of the campaign period so that the right to due process and appeal does not negatively impact the right to participate in public affairs,” Kerllen adds.
Gormah Yarkpawolo, a farmer and a mother of five, said she supports the reduction of elected officials and the change in the date of the election from October to December.
Joe T. Kollie, representing the Group of 77 at the meeting, added that in order to facilitate the participation of persons living with disabilities, the National Elections Commission should increase access to polling precincts through the use of ramps and other devices that would effectively enable physically challenged people to vote.
“In addition, election officials should increase voter awareness of the availability of physical accommodations and the tactile ballot, and train poll workers to proactively offer the tactile ballot to visually impaired voters, ” Mr. Kollie said.
There were also suggestions on the establishment of a special tribunal to try cases of elections disputes instead of the current judicial power vested in the elections commission.
The Botota residents also suggested a law to ban current elected lawmakers from contesting in by-elections in the country.
Meanwhile, the Bong County Lawmaker advised his constituents about their responsibility during future electoral reform exercise in the country.
“If changing the date for the election in this country and reducing the tenure of representatives, senator and president will develop and reconcile us as people of this great country than I stand by your but it will have to be done through a referendum,” Rep. Hill said.
“We will, therefore, work with the rightful authority – meaning the people responsible for elections matter in Liberia for consideration.”
According to him, recommendations from Liberians on electoral reform issues are to enhance Liberia’s democratic system and can only be done through a democratic process.
Zota District Calls For Reforms Too
In another gathering, the people of Wolapolu Clan in Zota District, Bong County also called for the change in the election’s date.
They said many people in the area did not participate in the 2017 general and Presidential elections due to bad road condition.
Some said during the elections they were unable to cast ballots because the heavy down pull of rain made the roads impassable.
“We left from here that morning and we chartered car to carry us but unfortunately, we were stuck in the center of the road for more than seven hours. After we reached in Bellefani where the polling center is, it was already late,” recalled Prontokpah Nokortrun, the Town Chief of Kpaimue Town.
“At least when the date of the election is changed from the rainy season to dry season, many of us who are living in rural parts of Liberia will be able to form part of the decision making processes of our Country.”
Also speaking, the youth President and Women Chairlady of Sinkor community Amos Mulbah and Gormah Duanjhie said an adjustment in the election’s date will not only ensure that eligible voters participate but will also ensure the National Elections Commission work efficiently.
“When they change the date, it will help NEC because pool Workers will not be disturbed by rain but they will rather do their jobs better,” Mulbah said, adding that failure to change the date will often result to poor turnout during general elections.
There are more than 12 villages in the Sinkor community in Zota District, which has over 2,000 Inhabitants.
Eligible Voters from the area mostly transport themselves or sometimes walk to Bellefani (Zota District Headquarters) where voting precincts are often located.
Meanwhile, a former representative candidate of Bong County Electoral District #3, Jerry Kerkulah Kollie has attributed his defeat in the 2017 election to the poor turnout of voters.
“I was defeated because those who were to vote for me from my strongholds were all unable to vote as a result of the rain during the election on Tuesday, October 10, 2017,” Mr. Kollie said, adding that he supports the change of date.
According to him, if the rain would not have disturbed voters of his “strongholds,” he would have gotten majority votes.
According to NEC official website, the total number of 2,183,629 eligible Voters registered during the 2017 Presidential and Representative Elections.
Out of that number, 1,641,922 constituting 75.2% of the total registered voters exercised their constitutional right for the first round election.
Report By: Emmanuel Mafelah In Bong County