By: Stephen G. Fellajuah
The National Elections Commission of Liberia (NEC) has released update on the status of preparation for the 2022/2023 voter registration process and mentioned that it will transition from Optical Mark System (OMR) to Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) System.
NEC Chairperson Davidetta Browne Lansanah said for the past one year, the Commission has been making preliminary plans for the 2023 General Elections, with emphasis on the transitioning from the manual Optical Mark Registration (OMR) System to Biometric Technology for the registration of voters.
The NEC boss named prevention of multiple registrations, accuracy of information collected for each registered voter, creation of unique lifetime voter identification for each registered voter, eradication of voter impersonation, removal of duplicated records from the Voter Registration System, and eradication of issues related to intentional errors during the data entry processes as some advantages of the Biometric Voter Registration.
Addressing a major press conference at the NEC headquarters in Monrovia on Wednesday, August 31, 2022, Madam Browne Lansanah also mentioned the methodology for planned Biometric Voter Registration and said the registration will begin on December 15, 2022 and end in March 17, 2023.
During the voter registration exercise, according to the Chairperson, portable tablets with scanners will be used. The data entry process, which will be performed by use of customized software, will capture each applicant’s particulars, including facial Image. Fingerprint scanners will be used to capture the thumbprints of each applicant.
She also said that the Commission has decided that the Biometric Voter Registration will be done in three phases on a regional basis, and the registration teams will be stationed at each registration center. This means that when the registration teams are deployed in a region, all registration centers in that region will be opened for registration for a period of three weeks and thereafter the teams will move to the next region.
Region one phase one will cover Montserrado, Bomi, Gbarpolu and Grand Cape Mount counties will start from December 15, 2022 and end January 6, 2023. While region two phase two will cover Bong, Grand Bassa, Lofa, and Margibi counties and will start from January 21, 2023 and end February 10, 2023; and the region three phase three will cover Grand Gedeh, Grand Kru, Maryland, Nimba, River Gee, Rivercess and Sinoe counties will start from February 25, 2023 and end March 17, 2023.
The customized software that will be used during the registration exercise; the setting up of the servers; training of NEC staff by the vendor; and the arrival in the country of the biometric equipment must all be done before the start of the registration, the NEC boss added.
Touching on the budgetary allotment she noted, “The NEC, working with the government, adjusted the submitted 2023 Comprehensive Elections Budget to US 61 million dollars. The government of Liberia appropriated and approved in the National Budget for Fiscal Year 2022 the amount of US$20 million dollars for the NEC. This amount represents partial funding to enable the NEC conduct the Voter Registration and other preliminary electoral activities.”
However, up to date, according to her, the Ministry of Finance Development and Planning has disbursed to the NEC the amount of US$6 million. The NEC Chief Executive revealed that the Commission has reviewed and is finalizing the regulations that will guide the voter registration exercise and other activities. Procurement activities for the pending Biometric Voter Registration are in progress.
Following the approval of the procurement plan by the Public Procurement and Concession Commission (PPCC), the Commission initiated the bid process for the procurement of the supply and delivery of the biometric equipment, as well as the procurement for vehicles. The NEC has submitted documents to the PPCC, requesting a “no objection” for the award of contracts. Other procurement activities are ongoing, NEC further said.
Continuing, Madam Lansanah narrated that the NEC is collaborating with LISGIS, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Land Authority and other stakeholders. She said the NEC has introduced a new variable in its civic and voter education program.