By: Jonathan O. Grigsby, Snr.
MONROVIA-The Electoral Management Body of Liberia has embarked on a Pre-Trail Exercise of the much talked about Biometric Voter Registration (BVR for short) in the county, ahead of the actual date for the commencement of the 2023 Presidential and General Elections.
The exercise which got underway Tuesday at the National Elections Commission (NEC) Headquarters on 9th Street, in the Sinkor suburb of Monrovia targeted staff and employees of the institution.
It was later on Wednesday extended to Liberia’s largest rubber plantation, Firestone – Liberia some 30 miles from Monrovia, the capital of Liberia.
Wednesday’s exercise was conducted in Garzon Town, Division 16, Harbel, Margibi County at the Garzon Public Elementary, Junior and Senior High School.
During the Pre-Trial Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) exercise in Garzon Town, National Elections Communications Director, Henry Flomo, indicated that the exercise was intended to find out some of the challenges that could serve as hindrances when the actual process gets underway in March.
Mr. Flomo disclosed that the exercise is to address the BVR issue that solely had to do with individuals who are engaged in physical work as well as chemical-related jobs including people who are limb problems (no hand or arms were amputated).
“So Firestone – Liberia is part of the country with a huge population of individuals that are involved in such physical work that is why we at NEC Selected this area to continue our Pre-Trial BVR exercise”, he pointed out.
On Thursday, the exercise targets members of the Liberian media, civil society organizations (CSOs) and political parties. The NEC Communications Director further stated that it aimed to get feedback on pre-Trial BVR exercise as it progresses that will lead National Elections Commission (NEC) to jump-start actual date line of the process in March.
According to NEC guidelines released for the 2023 Presidential and General Elections to be conducted in October, the Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) will be done in two phases and its will kick-out 20 March and will end 11 May.
The first of which will run for a period of three weeks — from 20 March to 9 April will be done in six counties including Montserrado, Margibi, Grand Bassa, Bomi, Grand Cape Mount, and Gbarpolu.
The second phase will begin on 21 April and end on 11 May and the counties targeted are Rivercess, Sinoe, Grand Kru, Maryland, River Gee, Grand Gedeh, Nimba, Bong, and Lofa for the same three-week period.
Some of the residents of Garzon Town in Division 16, who participated in the exercise, like David Sumo, David Y. Flomo, and MaittaTronyah, termed the BVR as a very good and durable Voters’ identification card than previous ID cards that were issued during past elections in the country.
Messrs Sumo, Flomo, and Madam Tronyah described the BVR as a smooth and quick process that can capture some vital features of the people but called on the National Elections Commission and partners to adequately train people who will be recruited to do the work.
They said the 2023 Presidential and General Elections are crucial, so NEC and partners must do all in their planning to get the right things to be done for the BVR process to not be delayed.
Funding of the BVR
At one of her press conferences in 2022, NEC – Liberia Chairperson, Davidetta Browne – Lansanah disclosed that the sum of 10 million United States Dollars has already been disbursed by the Liberian Government, while a balance of 8.3 million United States Dollars remains to be completed by the Finance Ministry.
Laxton Company to do the BVR
Laxton was amongst five companies that applied for the BVR Process and during the series of vetting processes, Laxton was the company best selected to do Liberia’s first biometric voter registration
As Liberia looks forward to the start of voter registration in March 20, this year, Laxton Group will be using laptops, rather than tablets for the enrollment of legal voters in the biometric voter registration across the country.
Liberia, Amongst Several African Countries (BVR)
According to the report, Liberia will join the 28 countries on the continent now use biometrics to generate voter rolls.
Some of the few countries Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Nigeria, and Uganda also use biometric voter authentication on polling day.
How analysts view BVR
Analysts say while biometrics has risen expectations among political opponents, biometric voter registration do not automatically prevent rigging, what it does is that biometric voter registration strengthens the reliability of the voter roll by preventing multiple registrations, but it does not affect many other fraudulent strategies.