Kabs Kanu: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 05 September 2022:
Many misinformed and ignorant people think that an election is rigged only on the day of polling. They think that protecting their votes on elections day is the key to stopping an election from being rigged.
The fact however is that an election can be rigged years or months before polling day. One phenomenon that is common in electoral fraud is VOTER SUPPRESSION —- where the voter is for instance deliberately prevented from registering to vote.
The importance of registering to vote cannot be overemphasized enough but when a government is really determined to rig an election, ensuring that you register is not a guarantee that the election will be free and fair.
Some African and third world governments and even so- called advanced democracies have perfected the art of elections rigging and they no longer wait until polling day. The voter registration process is now one of the methods surreptitiously used to rig elections in Africa today.
Opposition parties that do not want to be nutmegged into bogus elections by fraudulent governments must be very vigilant and hawk- eyed throughout the process of elections, fro the beginning of the process to the end, the counting of votes and announcement of results.
Democratic institutions and elections monitoring organizations have discovered that undemocratic governments have now devised subtle methods of erecting unnecessary barriers to stop genuine would – be voters from registering to vote. Stricter ID laws, which on the surface could look legitimate, are now one of the ways that elections are rigged before polling day.
Restricting the terms and requirements of registration is also a noted system of rigging elections these days. These undemocratic methods result in what is known as the criminal disenfranchisement of voters.
It is hoped that the Government of Sierra Leone would do everything in its power to address the problems that have arisen so far in the voter registration process that started two days ago , ahead of presidential, council, and parliamentary elections next year.
There have been complaints especially opposition strongholds in the Northwest about registration machines being defective or facing operational glitches , thus either keeping people waiting for hours under rain or burning sun or having to return home without registration.
Defenders and supporters of the President Maada Bio’s Sierra Leone People’s Party ( SLPP ) government have said that the problems are widespread and not confined to opposition strongholds alone, while supporters of the opposition protest that the problems are more prevalent in their backyards.
Whatever it is, if voters find themselves encumbered by unnecessary previously unanticipated problems to register, it amounts to voter suppression and it is a crime under the Federal voter laws of the United States, for instance. Registration should be free and fair as the voting process. When it is not, democracy is compromised and the credibility of the whole elections process is brought to question.
It is very imperative that the 2023 elections in Sierra Leone are free, fair and credible, to build upon the successes of the country’s democratic electoral processes and to sustain peace and stability in the country following the brutal 11- year war.
WIMAGE will continue to monitor the voter registration process in Sierra Leone.
Kabs Kanu is the Public Relations Officer of Women in Elections Auditing and Monitoring Globally (WIMAGE) , Washington DC, USA. He is also the editor in chief of Cocorioko Newspaper.