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Carter Center Statement on Liberia's Tally Process

Contact: Atlanta, Deborah Hakes +1 404 420 5124 or; Monrovia, Alexander Bick +231 880 424 280

Executive Summary
Carter Center observers monitoring the tally and the tabulation of final results in Liberia report a largely transparent process with no evidence of systematic fraud or manipulation of results.

In follow-up to its 55-person delegation that observed the voting process during the country's Oct. 11, 2011, presidential and legislative elections, The Carter Center re-deployed seven teams of international observers to observe the tally process in 12 of the 19 magisterial offices in nine counties. While Carter Center observers noted a number of clerical mistakes, computational errors, and minor procedural irregularities, in all but four cases these did not affect the total number of votes for any party or candidate. On the basis of the observers' report, the Center concludes that the observed irregularities did not jeopardize the integrity of the process as a whole and that there was no evidence of fraud.

The Carter Center acknowledges steps taken by the NEC to improve the transparency of the tally process and to address complaints by political parties and independent candidates. In anticipation of a presidential run-off, the Center urges the NEC to provide additional training to ensure that tally procedures are consistently and carefully applied. We also call on political parties and independent candidates to submit any complaints about the elections to the NEC according to established procedures, and to disseminate information about the tally process to their party agents. Following the announcement of final results, parties and candidates will have seven days to file a formal complaint with the NEC. These complaints must be resolved within 30 days.

The Carter Center's long-term observers remain in Liberia and will continue to observe the complaints period. In addition, the Center plans to deploy a delegation of short-term observers to observe polling, counting, and tallying for the presidential runoff election in November.

Tally Procedures
Liberia's procedure for tallying election results is outlined in the Tally Procedures for the Presidential and Legislative Election 2011, approved by NEC on Oct. 11, 2011. The tally process is conducted at the magistrate offices for all polling places within their respective magisterial areas. Three Tamper-Evident Envelopes, TEE1, TEE2, and TEE3 (the last of which includes, among other items, the Record of the Count forms for all three elections) and a brown envelope containing polling day complaints (if any) submitted by the voters or party or candidate agents are delivered to the magistrate office by the responsible Electoral Supervisor.[1] The remainder of the polling materials are packed in one of the ballot boxes and delivered to the county storage facility, along with the sealed ballot box containing the ballots.

Once the TEEs have been delivered, the tally process proceeds in four steps: intake of the TEEs at the tally center; copying and issuing copies of the Record of the Count forms to the party agents and observers present; entering the results into the database; and storage of the processed TEEs. The tally commences as soon as TEEs are received.

The Count Reading Officer is responsible for opening the TEE3s and ensuring that the three Records of the Count forms, the Presiding Officer's Worksheet and the Polling Place Journal are present. The Record of the Count forms are then copied for the party agents present so that they can follow the tally process when the numbers are read to the Data Entry Officer.

For each polling place the Count Reading Officer compares the data entered in the Presiding Officer's Worksheet and the top portion of the Record of the Count form. If the information matches, the magistrate will begin reading the results to the Data Entry Officer. The following information is read: the number of votes obtained by each candidate; the total number of votes cast; the total number of invalid votes cast; and the total number of valid and invalid votes cast.

The Count Reading Officer cannot under any circumstances make corrections to the number of votes obtained by the candidates. Corrections on the forms can only be done to the numbers of "total valid votes cast" and "total of valid and invalid votes cast" only in the case of a mistake in the calculation of votes. If a discrepancy of more than two percent is found between the total of valid and invalid votes cast and the number of ballots withdrawn from the ballot box, the database will recommend that the information be rechecked.

If, after the check, the Tally Database record matches the Record of the Count, the Data Entry Officer saves the file and prints a Record of the Count from the Tally Database form, which is signed by the Count Reading Officer and the Data Entry Officer and posted for inspection by party agents, observers, and the media. If, on the other hand, there are mistakes or discrepancies in the forms that cannot be rectified, the Count Reading Officer will place the TEE3 in quarantine and the magistrate will inform the party agents and NEC headquarters.

Results from the tally process at the magistrate offices are transmitted to NEC National Tally Center three times a day until the tally process is complete.

Findings of Carter Center Observers
An efficient and transparent tally process is a critical component of a credible election that ensures the will of voters is accurately and comprehensively reflected in the final results.[2]

Seven teams of Carter Center observers witnessed the tally process for the presidential and legislative elections in 12 of the 19 magisterial areas over the period Oct. 12-17, 2011. Their work included conducting interviews and observation in magistrate offices in Lower and Upper Montserrado, Bomi, Lower and Upper Bong, Grand Bassa, Lower and Upper Nimba, Grand Gadeh, Grand Cape Mount, Margibi, and Maryland Counties.

Key findings at magistrate offices observed include the following:

  • No TEE3s received at the magistrate offices showed any sign of tampering.[3] In many cases TEE1s and TEE2s were enclosed within or affixed to the ballot boxes, rather than delivered to the magistrate office, but in general the intake process was smooth and orderly;
  • Agents for several parties and candidates were present at all magistrate offices. In several cases domestic observers, representatives of the media, and members of the international community also were present[4];
  • A photocopier was available at all magistrate offices in order to provide copies of the Record of the Count form to party and candidate agents and observers. In at least two cases, however, the copy machine broke down for an extended period of time and copies could not be distributed in line with tally procedures;
  • The layout of the magistrate office for tallying was not always conducive to monitoring by party and candidate agents and observers, who could not see the data entry screen. In addition, copies of the Record of the Count from the Tally Database form were not distributed or posted for viewing in a timely fashion, especially in Lower and Upper Montserrado. This limited to the transparency of the tally process;
  • Record of the Count forms enclosed in the TEE3 contained numerous computational errors, empty fields, and other mistakes. In most cases, the error was easily discovered and corrected, either on sight or by comparing the Record of the Count form against the Presiding Officer's Worksheet. In all cases observed, NEC staff followed the tally procedure and did not alter the number of votes received by any party or candidate. However, contrary to the tally procedure, in numerous cases at multiple magistrate offices discrepancies were removed by adjusting the number of unused ballots or invalid votes, with the consent of the party agents present;
  • Carter Center observers reported only two cases in which errors or corrections on the Record of the Count form affected the number of votes cast for a party or candidate.[5] We are aware of two other cases nationwide;[6] In all of these cases the problem was identified and corrected;
  • A number of results were placed in quarantine because the discrepancy amounted to more than two percent of the total votes cast, consistent with the tally procedures. However, in several instances, including magistrate offices in Montserrado and Upper Nimba, discrepancies of four percent and seven percent were not quarantined. Elsewhere discrepancies of less than two percent were quarantined. This suggests that the two percent threshold was not clearly understood by NEC staff. Observers reported that recounts based on quarantine were conducted for several polling places, but this was not always done according to the tally procedures;
  • In several cases the division of functions among NEC staff was not strictly followed, or the process was made to move more quickly by distributing copies of the Record of the Count from the Tally Database, rather than reading the results aloud; and
  • Carter Center observers noted that procedural inconsistencies, including errors on the Record of the Count forms, appeared to be due to limited experience or insufficient training of NEC staff and that there was no evidence of fraud or of any systematic effort to change the results in favor of any party or candidate. Carter Center observers reported an earnest effort on the part of NEC staff to correct discrepancies with the consent of party agents, and the process improved markedly over the course of the tally.

Overall, the tally process was conducted in a manner that upholds Liberia's international obligations.[7]

The Complaints Process
To ensure that effective remedies are available for violations of rights occurring during the tally process, there should be impartial scrutiny and access to a complaints review process.[8] The elections law and related procedures, including the Regulations on Challenges and Complaints Arising before and during Elections and Tally Procedures, provide party agents the opportunity to monitor the process and to file formal complaints with the NEC. These complaints are considered by a hearing officer and may be appealed with the board of commissioners. Despite a formal window of 48 hours after the election to file a complaint, the complaints process is ongoing. Carter Center findings on this process are therefore preliminary.

Carter Center observers noted several complaints filed at the magistrate offices relating to a number of distinct aspects of the election process. In addition, the Center acknowledges the Oct. 15, 2011, "Press Release on the Flaw of the General and Presidential Election Results" issued by nine opposition political parties, alleging flawed elections and directing their party agents to withdraw from the tally process.

According to the NEC, as of Oct. 19 thirty-five official complaints had been filed in 16 magisterial areas. Nine of these complaints resulted in recounts: in four cases the allegations proved false, and the original tally was confirmed; in three cases the allegations proved justified and the tally was amended to reflect the correct results. Two recounts are pending. Fifteen investigations are ongoing or a response to the complainant is in preparation. Nine complaints had been dismissed for lack of evidence and five complaints had been withdrawn. As of Oct. 20, the NEC is conducting three full district recounts in Montserrado, Nimba, and River Gee Counties.

The Carter Center calls on political parties and candidates to submit evidence of irregularities or other problems to the NEC for investigation and resolution, in line with the formal complaints procedure. We acknowledge the steps taken by NEC to hear and resolve complaints in a timely fashion, which is in accordance with Liberia's international obligations.[9] At the same time, the Center calls on NEC to ensure that hearings are conducted in an appropriate setting by the proper authorities as outlined in the elections law.

Following the announcement of final results parties and candidates will have seven days to file a formal complaint with the NEC. These complaints must be resolved within 30 days. As the process continues, The Carter Center encourages the NEC to ensure that the process remains transparent and impartial.

The Carter Center's Election Observation Mission
The Carter Center's election observation mission is working in Liberia by invitation of the
NEC, in conformity with the NEC's Code of Conduct for Observers. The Carter Center commenced its observation mission on Sept. 1, 2011, and has deployed eight long-term observers who will remain in Liberia for a period of three months, visiting all 15 of Liberia's counties. They were joined by a larger, short-term delegation in early October to witness the voting, counting, and tabulation processes.

The objectives of the Carter Center's election observation mission in Liberia are to: a) provide an impartial assessment of the overall quality of the electoral process, b) promote a process that is credible, transparent, and free from violence, and c) to demonstrate international interest in and support for the upcoming elections. The Center assesses the electoral process based on Liberia's national legal framework and its obligations for democratic elections contained in regional and international agreements, including the African Charter on Human and People's Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.[10]

The Carter Center's election observation missions are conducted in accordance with the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation and the Code of Conduct, which were adopted at the United Nations in 2005 and have been endorsed by 37 election observation groups.


"Waging Peace. Fighting Disease. Building Hope."

A not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization, The Carter Center has helped to improve life for people in more than 70 countries by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy, human rights, and economic opportunity; preventing diseases; improving mental health care; and teaching farmers in developing nations to increase crop production. The Carter Center was founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, in partnership with Emory University, to advance peace and health worldwide.

[1] In Montserrado County the TEEs were delivered to the Samual Kanyon Doe Sports Complex (SKD).

[2] International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, art. 25(b); AU, Declaration on the Principles Governing Democratic Elections in Africa, art. 1.

[3] In Upper Nimba, observers reported that many envelopes were never sealed before delivery. Party agents did not object, however, and no official complaints were filed.

[4] A number of these agents departed following the press release issued by opposition parties on October 15, though some remained and signed the final Declaration of Preliminary Results form. See "The Complaints Process" below. Access of political party agents and domestic observers is supported by Liberia's international commitments, such as the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, art. 25; UNHCR, General Comment 25, para. 20.

[5] In one case in Lower Montserrado a discrepancy of 138 votes in the presidential race was identified and a recount conducted. The recount found that the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) had received 153, rather than 15 votes, as noted on the Record of the Count form. The form was corrected and copies distributed to the party agents. In a second case Munah Pelham, a CDC candidate for the House of Representatives in Montserrado County, complained that the number of votes she received had been switched with another candidate. A recount found that this was true and the Record of the Count form was corrected.

[6] The first case in Upper Montserrado involved an error where 95 votes for the CDC in the presidential race were read as 15 votes. The error was corrected on the Record of the Count form. The second case involved a Liberty Party (LP) candidate in Maryland County.

[7] International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, art. 25(b);

[8] UNHRC, General Comment 25, para. 20.

[9] African Charter on Human and People's Rights, art. 7 (noting that each individual has the right to have his cause heard within a reasonable time); African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, art. 17(2) (signed) (requiring State Parties establish and strengthen national mechanisms to redress election-related disputes in a timely manner).

[10] Liberia ratified the African Charter on Human and People's Rights (ACHPR) on Aug. 4, 1982, and the ICCPR on Sept. 22, 2004.

Liberia Elections: Read More

Oct. 13, 2011: Carter Center Reports Open and Transparent Voting Process; Encourages Liberians to Await Final Results >>

Read the Blog:  Voting Day - Liberia's Oct. 11 Presidential and Legislative Elections >>

Oct. 10, 2011:  Liberia Elections in Brief:
Oct. 11 Presidential and Legislative Elections
'Critical Test' >>

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