Monrovia- Voting started early at 2080 precinct centers in Liberia, but the wearing of the mask remains a tussle between National Election Commission staff and voters.
At the Slipway School and YMCA, some voter lines are longer than the other, but polling staff has turned voters away because of voter’s refusal to wear a mask.
“We are in a health crisis, all of us are aware, we can not allow them to vote without a mask, it is important for us all to abide by the health protocols,” Antoinette Judges, an NEC staff said.
According to her, her precinct has instructed all voters to wear a mask before entry, failure to do so, they won’t be allowed to vote.
For Samuel Blee, 47 years, he argued that he won’t wear a mask on grounds Monrovia City Mayor Jefferson Koijee has told them not to wear any.
A claim by Blee is true, in a live video, the mayor is heard informing voters to go to the polling centers without a mask.
Last Week December 2, 2020, the Minister of Health disclosed that with the increase in cases, Liberia is expected to lock-down highly affected counties.
Meanwhile, a group named the COVID-19 Election Monitoring and Violence Prevention Situation Room (CEMViP-SR), otherwise known as the ‘Situation Room’ requested NEC officials to abide by health protocols by the Ministry of Health and partners.
Montserrado and Margibi are the highly hit counties, see table below
There is a contradiction in the chairperson of the National Elections Commission (NEC), Madam Davidetta Brown-Lansanah’s statement.
Yesterday December 7, on a local media, she instructed voters to take a mask along that will safeguard citizens from further spread of the virus.
But today December 8 on Prime FM, Madam Lansanah said no voter should be denied their right to vote whether they wear a mask or not.
She said though the NEC encourages voters to respect the COVID-19 health protocols, no citizen with a valid voter ID card must not be denied their right to vote.
She encouraged voters who would be turned away to report to the NEC by calling 0770 326 028 or 0880 144 137.
The NEC chairperson disclosed that she has dispatched a team to polling centers to allow voters to vote whether with a mask or not.
Dr. Jonathan Hart said Liberia has done pretty well in the fight against COVID but encouraging people not to wear masks on such an occasion where huge numbers of people are going to be out is a complete disservice and insult to the health workforce and those directly involved in this fight.
Remember that there are lots of people with the virus who are asymmetric and in their homes, and communities so asking them not to wear masks but come out as they wish is a direct invitation to the sudden rise in the number of new infections.
The way out is for NEC to encourage everyone to wear masks and also secure some masks and place them at polling stations for those who will not have masks.