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Voter registration kicks off in Sierra Leone

  • Albert Massaquoi, NEC spokesman

An estimated 3.5 million Sierra Leoneans born on the 7 March 2000 or before will be registered in the next four weeks to be eligible to vote in next year’s presidential, legislative and local council elections.

The National Electoral Commission spokesman, Albert Massaquoi says they have deployed equipment in all 3,300 registration centres across the country for the four-week-long exercise which will be a “joint voter and civil registration process”.

Data relevant to voting will be extracted by the electoral commission while the rest will be passed over to the Civil Registration Commission.

He said this was the last time the electoral commission would be registering voters, with future elections conducted using data from the civil registration secretariat. 

Massaquoi said they were certain the exercise would be smooth with their target number of voters achieved.

On whether the centres were adequately spread around the country to avoid people having to travel long distances to access them, Massaquoi said “placement of centres is actually an issue of population density“, not topography.

The main opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party meanwhile have already faulted the exercise. The man leading their voter registration, Jacob Jusu Saffa said registration centres were too far apart.

“We think it is too much on the people and will demotivate them” he told Politico. He said that in parts of his party’s stronghold district of Bo people in nearly a dozen riverine villages would be required to travel by canoe to access a centre which he said would disenfranchise them because of the lack of resources.  

“The ruling party has more resources than we do to be able to ferry people in their own strongholds which does not provide a level playing field”, Saffa complained.

He also said that NEC lacked the funds they had budgeted for the electoral process.

“As I speak to you now some areas have not received voter registration materials” he said, adding that they were also dissatisfied with the technology and demanded to know some details including the manufacturers and when the equipment was manufactured.

He said his party was displeased that biometric verification was not going to happen to ensure a voter ID card holder was actually the person registered.

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