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|Ballot Error, Slow Start to Liberia Referendum - Voters Still Undecided and Confused||| Print ||
|Tuesday, 23 August 2011 11:53|
On a day President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf declared as a National Holiday, the long awaited and controversial National Referendum got to a rather slow start Tuesday morning across the country with many illegible voters still undecided and confused.
Following a joint legislative resolution in August of 2010, the National Elections Commission (NEC) which had previously announced that it was impossible to conduct a national referendum overturned its decision and is now conducting the referendum seeking to amend four constitutional provisions.
The voters are voting ‘YES’ or ‘NO’ to change or retain Article 52 (C) that is seeking to reduce the residency requirement for presidential candidates from 10 years to 5 years, Article 72 (b) which seeks to increase the retirement age of judges from 70 years to 75 years, Article 83 (a) that seeks to change the election date from October to November and Article 83 (b) seeking to, except for the presidential election, require legislative candidates to acquire the most votes instead of more than half the votes. But the process became complicated Tuesday when a major error on the ballot regarding the proposition on the Supreme Court justices surfaced.
Both ages as 75 on ballot
Voters to various radio stations raised the alarm when instead of asking voters to choose between 70 and 75 years as the retirement age for judges, the ballot has both ages as 75. Elections Commission authorities acknowledged the error but did a poor job sensitizing the public. "We sincerely apologize for this error," said Amos Ziah Koukou, NEC coordinator.
Koukou said the ballots had been printed in Denmark with the help of the United Nations Development Programme. Kokou says the ballot error was detected when the ballots had been delivered, by which time it was too late to change.
It was only detected when the ballots had been delivered, by which time it was too late to correct, Mr Koukou said.
Nevertheless Kokou says disclaimers about the question had been placed at polling station across the country.
Most polling centers opened on time at 8AM with a few determined voters already in queues. In Clara Town on the Bushrod Island, three of the polling centers visited had a few voters queuing up dominated by male voters.
At the Clara Town Hall voting center Bendu Varflah told FPA that she was still undecided on which of the four to mark ‘YES’ or ‘NO’.
Another voter too shy to call his name said he got confused the moment he entered the box to mark his ballot paper:
“That paper confused me because the place to mark ‘NO’ was almost the same as saying ‘YES’ to the same thing. The place where they get 75 years for the judges was on the ‘NO’ and the ‘YES’ side.”
But National Referendum Coordinator Blamo Sieh told FPA that there would be no effect as a voter should only mark ‘YES’ to mean acceptance or ‘NO’ to mean refusal. He insisted that the symbols are meant for the unlettered and the wordings meant for the lettered.
Since the late infusion of the National Referendum into this year’s electoral process, there have been controversies surrounding the propositions that has seen the opposition block labeling the ruling Unity Party (UP) as the brainchild of the issues in the referendum, though it originated from the National Legislature. Another opposition party, the Liberty Party and the UP have been on the ‘YES’ to all campaign for the referendum.
It is not clear what the error on the ballot would do to the upcoming presidential and legislative elections but the NEC is expected issue a statement on the process and will 10PM local time hold its first press conference to give updates on the referendum.
|Last Updated on Wednesday, 24 August 2011 06:27|