The Electoral Commission for Sierra Leone (ECSL) yesterday conducted early voting for the upcoming presidential election, but concerns have been raised regarding the procedures and compliance with the Public Elections (Early Voting) Regulations of 2023.

The National Election Watch (NEW) has expressed reservations about the process and has issued a set of recommendations to address these concerns.

One of the major points of contention is the late notification provided to voters. The information about the early voting date was communicated at a PPLC meeting held on 14th June 2023, less than 24 hours before the polls opened on 15th June 2023. As a result, some voters were turned away because their names were not on the Voters’ List, causing frustration and raising questions about the organization of the process.

Another concern raised by NEW is the lack of transparency surrounding the procurement and printing of ballot papers. The ECSL confirmed that ballot papers for early voting were printed in Sierra Leone, while those for the main election were printed in South Africa and expected to arrive later. NEW questions the protection, custody, verifiability, transparency, and accountability of the ballot papers printed in two different countries for the same elections.

The organization recommends that the ECSL provide detailed information on the service provider that printed the early voting ballot papers and the quantity produced.

In light of these concerns, NEW has put forth several recommendations.

They emphasize the need for consistency in the management of all electoral processes to foster trust and public confidence.

Furthermore, the ECSL should ensure timely provision of information at every stage of the electoral process, allowing adequate preparation by election stakeholders and effective participation. Compliance with all legal provisions related to early voting is also essential to uphold the integrity of the election.

Recognizing the constitutional mandate of the ECSL to conduct elections, NEW has formally communicated these concerns and recommendations to the Commission. Their objective is to support the efforts to ensure that the upcoming elections are free, fair, and credible.

The ECSL has not yet responded to the concerns raised by NEW, but it is expected that they will carefully review the recommendations and take appropriate actions to address the identified issues.