New procedures contribute to credible elections, high voter turnout in Sierra Leone

 voter with new ID card
PATRICIA SAFFA, 19, DISPLAYS HER FIRST EVER VOTER ID CARD AFTER SUCCESSFULLY UNDERGOING BIOMETRIC VOTER REGISTRATION AND VALIDATION IN SIERRA LEONE (UNDP/A.K. BAH)

In November 2012, 19-year-old Patricia Saffa voted for the very first time. But the Sierra Leonean didn’t just cast a ballot – she also served as a party agent during the distribution of voter ID cards.

“I am proud because I think my contribution means a lot for the country,” Saffa says. As her fellow citizens went to the polls last November in complex elections, there were considerable risks of political polarization, election-related violence and regional and ethnic divisions.

Highlights

  • Sierra Leone held peaceful, free and fair elections in November 2012, with 87.3 percent voter turnout
  • Biometric Voter Registration, adopted by NEC with UNDP support, enabled the registration of 2.7 million voters and the distribution of voter ID cards
  • The $40 million dollar electoral cycle support programme was managed by UNDP with contributions from the UK Department for International Development (DFID), the European Commission, Irish Aid, Germany, Japan and the UN Peacebuilding Fund
  • More than 600 tally centre personnel were trained to facilitate accurate and speedy counting of results
  • Provision of technical support through technical advisors in IT, training, procedural development, logistics, elections results management and voter education
  • UNDP, in close cooperation with NEC, procured sensitive elections materials, including 39,000 ballot boxes and lids, as well as indelible ink and ballot box seals
  • UNDP supported the training of 170 NEC staff in elections management

With UNDP support, Sierra Leone's National Electoral Commission (NEC) supervised the polls, using Biometric Voter Registration to reduce the risk of double registration.

“As a first-time voter, I think the biometric voter register is reliable and effective, better than before,” says Saffa. “We have already done two rounds of verifications, two rounds of distribution of ID cards and re-registration of those whose data were corrupted during registration.”

Electoral commissioners and 170 NEC staff members were trained in electoral support, resulting in the successful registration of 2.7 million voters and the printing and distribution of voter ID cards across the country.

The Commission was also able to establish decentralised regional tally centers in Bo, Kenema and Makeni cities, ensuring that the decentralized counting of results was efficient and accurate. Furthermore, the commission also provided technical advice and logistical and material support for electoral security planning to the Office of National Security and to the Sierra Leone Police.

 “From voter registration using the new biometric system, through the campaigning period to polling day and beyond, UNDP has been working with partners on behalf of the people of Sierra Leone to ensure that all procedures are transparent and accountable,” says UNDP Country Director Mia Seppo.

According to local and international observers in Sierra Leone, elections day was largely peaceful, with no violence reported. The enthusiasm displayed by the country's citizens as they cast their votes, and the high voter turnout of 87.3 percent of eligible voters, was a clear manifestation of the strong desire for continued peace, good governance and development in Sierra Leone.

Establishing the credibility of the electoral process was a key goal for NEC.

“International support, including from UNDP, has helped us to deliver credible elections, ensuring for example the use of biometric voter registration was transparent, and effective procurement of elections materials was done,” said Stephen Aiah Mattia, one of four Commissioners representing each geographical region.