Liberian referendum ballot paper misprint
Interview: Bobby Livingstone, Liberia’s Electoral Commission, 23 August 2011
How was the turnout on polling day?Very encouraging, we started on a very good note. With the polling places opening, in most cases, on time. There were a few delays in a couple of areas. But I would say that generally the polling process today in Liberia has been going very well. We are optimistic of a very good turnout at the close of this process.
There were some concerns that there was a misprint on the ballot papers.The problem was that we had a situation where there was a mistake, especially on proposition number two. It talks about the increment in the retirement age of judges from 70 to 75. But on the ballot they have, in the ‘no’ column they have 75 written there, and in the ‘yes’ column they also have 75 written there. So as part of our civic education strategy, following our own recognition of that error, we told the voters that even though the 75 is written there, on both columns. The key thing they’re responding to is the question in the middle that says ‘do you agree’. Then you have the ‘yes’ on the left and the ‘no’ on the right. If you tick the ‘yes’, it means you agreed. If you tick ‘no’, it means you have objected or you have rejected the proposition. So, with that many of the voters can understand that this is a yes or no vote. So, even though the 75 is written there on both sides it does not in any way affect whether the person has voted yes or no.
Some opposition politicians have said that maybe these problems arise from the referendum being hastily organised.We do not agree with that, at the commission we considered all of the factors involved. And once we agreed to conduct this referendum the key thing we first had to clear was the legal requirement. We have followed the process looking at the timeframe, looking at the legal framework with the view of no violation. The constitution says that a referendum will be considered in one year, following the passage, then, it means that we are outside the ambit of the law. So, those politicians who have raised the argument were also part of the discussions in the evolution of the proposition that today will be put before the Liberian people for vote. These propositions were discussed at the level of the inter-party collaborative committee, the IPCC. They were all part of the whole process of involving the questions that have today become the propositions on which the Liberian people decide on. So we would just say that they are not just being fair in this process, by saying that we have hastily arranged this referendum.