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Dedication to Democracy – Liberians Take to the Polls

October 12, 2011

L-R: An elections observer; A voter holds up her registration card before voting; Liberian voter queue in the rain to vote (photos: Lindsay Forslund)

By Lindsay Forslund

What I witnessed yesterday here in Liberia can only be recorded in history as nothing short of true dedication to the democratic process.  The morning sky was covered with large grey rain clouds, but the mood in Monrovia was bright; people where enthusiastically queuing up outside of polling stations hours before they were scheduled to open at 8:00am in anticipation. I arrived at the Ushahidi office at 7:30am where the Elections Coordinating Committee (ECC) data collection staff had started to arrive. The ECC had trained 20 observers on a data collection program that was designed to take calls about any critical incidences witness by the 2000 ECC monitors in the field. 

Liberian voters

People with special conditions like the elderly, those with disabilities or women with small children were granted priority voting.

We arrived at the first polling station just as the rain started to become heavy, though the weather did not damper the spirit of the Liberian people. We were greeted with big smiles and people flashing us their voter registration cards. Inside, the polling staff was hard at work ensuring that each voter could easily follow the steps and successfully cast their ballot.  Accommodations were made to ensure that people with disabilities, the elderly, pregnant women and women with small children could easily vote without having to wait in the long queues.  I watched an 82 year old blind woman, assisted by a family member she trusted, cast her vote; she smiled as she came out from behind the polling box proud to be doing her civic duty.

We reconvened at the Ushahidi office around noon to see if our experience of calm, peaceful and professional polling centres different in other areas of the country.  The ECC data entry staff were happy to report that the phone lines had remained quiet all morning, with the exception of reports they had received from the field that confirmed Monrovia’s peaceful mood was echoed across the nation.

As the heavy rain lifted, we continued roaming around the city, stopping in at various polling stations to ensure that the process was still running smoothly.  In each polling place we visited, the rooms were filled with political party observers, security personal, polling staff, international observers and a monitor from the ECC.  As the long day wore on, people started to look tired, but their patience and dedication to overseeing the process did not waver.  As the light started to fade and the last few ballots were cast, a quiet calm came over the city, except at the polling stations, which remained hives of activity. Each polling station was responsible for verifying the number of ballots that had been cast for the presidential, senatorial and representative candidates.  The process was slow and tedious, as all observers present needed to verify each marked ballot but everyone present was respectful and persistent that the process be carried out in a careful and proficient manner.  Long after I had retired for the evening, dedicated Liberians all across the country worked until 3:00am this morning checking and rechecking each precious vote.

Liberia elections
Polling station attendants work late into the night. 

The preliminary results will not be announce by the National Elections Commission (NEC) until Thursday however, my feeling is that regardless of who is elected, Liberians everywhere should know that as a country they have won something greater than the candidates that will represent them for the next five years.  They have all won the right to feel proud that they live in a country where every citizen has the right to participate in an electoral process that is fair, transparent and peaceful.


Lindsay Forslund is pursuing a master’s degree in Gender and Peace Building and the United Nations Mandated University for Peace San José, Costa Rica. She’s currently interning with SFCG in Liberia.

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