By Morrison O.G. Sayon
The National Elections Commission (NEC) has launched the Civic and Voter Education Campaign for the October 14, 2014 Special Senatorial Election to be held throughout the country. NEC, over the weekend, launched the CVE at its national Headquarters in Monrovia with a massive turn out of several groups including representatives of political parties and partners.
The Special Senatorial is believed to be the first of its kind in the democratic history of Liberia since its formation, political observers have said.
Speaking at the colorful occasion, National Elections Commission Chairman, Jerome George Korkoya, quoted Article 77(b) of the Liberian Constitution which gives every Liberian who has attained the age of 18 and above the right to register and vote in public elections.
Mr. Korkoya said in keeping with this Constitutional provision and consistent with the timeline for the October 14, 2014 Special Senatorial Election, the Commission will conduct a voter roll update exercise from January 13-March 5, 2014.
The NEC boss said the update exercise is intended to include on the current voter roll, Liberians who fall in the following categories including those who have attained the age of 18 years and above since the 2011 Voter Registration Exercise; eligible Liberians who, for one reason or the other did not register in
2011; and voters who have changed locations since the last voters’ registration exercise and wish to be registered at their current locations.
Mr. Korkoya said the success of the voter roll update is largely dependent on the conduct of a sustained civic and voter education exercise. He added that civic and voter education in a democratic process is particularly important because it deals with broader concepts underpinning a democratic society such as the respective roles and responsibilities of citizens, governments, political and special interests, the mass media, the business and non-profit sectors as well as the significance of periodic and competitive elections.
“It emphasizes not only citizens’ awareness but citizens’ participation in all aspects of a democratic process,” the NEC boss noted.
He added that the Commission is fully aware that there can be no free, fair and participatory elections in the absence of adequate information saying, “It is within this context that the Commission is today officially launching an integrated civic and voter education approach to educate and inform Liberians about the ensuing Voters’ Roll Update Exercise. This integrated approach involves the implementation of several key civic and voter education activities that are being carried out simultaneously across the country today.”
Cllr. Korkoya said the National Elections Commission has initiated a number of programs to ensure full citizens’ participation in the update process.
He then named the programs as gender and youth awareness campaign with support from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), and USAID through the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES).
He added that there are 50 civil society organizations currently carrying out school-based information dissemination campaign on the Voter Roll Update Exercise. Chairman Korkoya noted, “This campaign is being conducted in secondary and tertiary learning institutions in the 15 counties under the supervision of the Commission. This intervention is expected to create awareness amongst the youth populace by encouraging young people, predominantly “first time voters” to turn out en masse and actively participate in the update exercise.
He, among other things added that the Commission with support from the IJNDP is currently executing a gender specific project aimed at enhancing and increasing women’s participation in the Voter Roll Update Exercise. “This project along with other gender mainstreaming activities is evolving the interest of the voting populace by creating equitable access to the electoral process.