Sierra Leone: SLPP Urges NEC

By Stephen V. Lansana

The Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) has on Tuesday March 14th, 20017, urged the National Electoral Commission (NEC) to use the biometric voter verification on polling day and to revisit the location of registration centres with the participation of political parties with a view to reducing the distances to registration and polling centres.

SLPP said in a statement issued on Tuesday, “It is imperative that the integrity of the electoral process is protected. Meaning, only eligible voters must register, a voter can only vote once and only registered voters can vote,” SLPP.”

SLPP said contrary to the assurance given by NEC to the public in the 2012 electoral cycle relating to biometric voting, only biometric registration will be used in the forthcoming registration and Voter Verification will only be paper-based.

“SLPP strongly believes that among the merits of using biometric verification on polling day are: the high degree of certainty in voter identification which means that the final decision is not entirely left to the judgment of NEC officials; eliminates cost and logistics with paper ballots; and improves voter identification mechanisms compared to manual traditional methods of voter identification,” SLPP said.

The party emphasized that the traditional methods of voter identification are labour intensive as electoral officials are faced with the laborious task of manually verifying hundreds of voters in the voter register while party agents are deprived of the opportunity to participate in the voter verification.

“It is expected that the error rate in voter identification increases as officials get tired. Biometric verification on the other hand greatly reduces direct human control and influence in the voter identification process. Accordingly, the SLPP urges NEC to fulfill the promise made to the nation and use Biometric Voter Verification on polling day. It also calls on Government and development partners to provide the needed resources for this purpose,” SLPP said.

SLPP further stated that they are concerned about long distances between polling centres and communities. The party pointed out that this situation is further exacerbated by the removal of registration centres from highly populated communities.

“Reports from various districts across the country estimate that some polling centres are up to 8–10 miles away from some communities,” the party explained.

In giving some instances of districts that are in this situation, SLPP listed four districts across the country and their registration centers: The Registration Centre 02110 in Kpetema in Malegun Chiefdom, Constituency 014 in Kenema district is 7 miles away from Benduma town which is the sectional headquarters; Njagoh which is 8 miles away from the nearest Registration Centre in Panguma, Lower Bambara Chiefdom, Constituency 044 in Kenema District; Saahun, Ngeboya and Panguwama communities in Gorama Mende Chiefdom in Constituency 018 are all about 12 miles away from Modema.

SLPP added that in Lei Chiefdom, Kainsay Section, Constituency 022, there is only one Registration Centre located in Bandadu with Centre Code №03017 which is far away from most communities. Some communities are away by nearly 10 miles; In Selokoma Section in Gorama Chiefdom, Constituency 027, there are two centres; one in Torkpombu with Centre Code 3132 and Vaama with Centre Code 3133. The two Centres are much closed to each other and far away from some communities; in Kasunko chiefdom, Constituency 48.

The party explained that in Fanima, Manyeh Section, Wonde Chiefdom, Constituency 81, Registered Centre №09083 is not only far off but 10 villages need to cross a river to access the centre; and in Makump, in Dibia chiefdom, Constituency 062 with Centre Code 07188, some communities like Maputa are over 5 miles away from the Centre. Also, in Gbinti in the same Constituency, some communities like Maboi are over 6 miles away to the Registration Centre №7185.

SLPP said this unfavourable situation demotivates many persons to come forward to register and to vote. The SLPP is disturbed by the fact that political parties who have thorough local knowledge of the communities are never involved in the identification of these registration centres.

“The Party also considers this as a major element in creating unfairness in the electoral process,” SLPP emphasized.

The SLPP therefore calls on the National Electoral Commission (NEC) to revisit the location of registration centres with the participation of political parties with a view to reducing the distances to registration and polling centres.

SLPP also calls on the Office of the Attorney General and the Legislature to immediately approve the Boundary Delimitation as presented by NEC to avoid further unwarranted delays.

SLPP also explained that the public education on voter registration is limited to only a few areas and to persons with access to radio. The vast majority of people in remote areas where access to even radio is challenging have not been informed about the voter registration.