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Liberia's Elections Commission Sued Over Referendum Results

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James Butty

The chairman of Liberia’s ruling Unity Party, Varney Sherman, has filed a lawsuit against the National Elections Commission (NEC) over the results of the August 23 referendum.

Voters defeated all four amendments, including Proposition 4 which states only the presidential election shall be determined by an absolute majority and that all other elections shall be determined by a simple majority.

Sherman has asked the Supreme Court to nullify Article 1.1 of the commission’s decree on endorsement of referendum results.

He said invalid votes should not have been counted in computing the final results.

“If we are successful, and that means that the Supreme Court declares that Article 1.1 of the July 21st, 2011 Resolution of the National Election Commission is invalid, null and void, then the invalid votes will not be computed in determining the results of the referendum," he said.

Hundreds of thousands of votes were thrown out as invalid, something elections commission chief James Fromayan told VOA was worrisome.

“When we started to investigate as to what was responsible for the massive invalid votes, we found out that some of the people just went and voted in both columns ‘Yes’ [and] ‘No,’ as if to say it was well-calculated to just swell the number of invalid votes,” Fromayan said.

Sherman said the commission counted both the valid and invalid votes cast in determining the results, which he said led to the defeat of the referendum.

“They were counted to form part of the total number of votes and, by doing so, they [the commission] declared that all of the propositions did not succeed.  And, they counted invalid votes for the ‘No’ candidate.  So, the ‘No’ candidate succeeded,” he said.

Asked why he did not protest against Article 1.1 of the Election Commission Resolution on Endorsement of Referendum Results prior to the referendum itself, Sherman said he was not aware of the resolution.

“First, I wasn’t aware of that resolution and, two, there was not a time limitation to complain against it,” he said.

Sherman, who is national chairman of the ruling Unity Party, rejected the suggestion that his lawsuit could be interpreted by some as an attempt by the ruling party to circumvent the will of the electorate.

“I thought you would applaud me for calling [to] the attention of the Supreme Court a violation of general principles of law.  You don’t suggest something like that to a lawyer that, because I went to court to address my grievance, I’m trying to circumvent the will of the people,” Sherman said.

He said he filed the lawsuit as a private citizen.

“I’m a citizen of the Republic of Liberia, and I’m a counselor of law at the Supreme Court of the Republic of Liberia.  My rights as a citizen are not taken away from me because I’m the chairman of the ruling party,” Sherman said.

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