The 2020 Grand Cape Mount County Senatorial Candidate of the opposition Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) has been declared winner by the Supreme Court of Liberia.
Simeon B. Taylor emerged victorious when the high court affirmed the final ruling of the Board of Commissioners of the National Elections Commission (NEC), thus bringing to an end months of legal battles following the December 8, 2020 polls.
In its ruling, the Supreme Court on Wednesday, August 11, 2021 ordered the NEC to certificate Senator-elect Taylor with full benefits and emoluments as if he were seated in January 2021.
The full bench of the Supreme Court comprising all five Justices instructed the Clerk of Court to mandate the NEC to resume jurisdiction and give effect to the judgment.
In the view of the high court, defeated candidate Victor V. Watson of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) failed to establish proof of claims about pre – marked ballots, forgery of signatures on the Senate Record of Count and the stopping of his poll watchers from entering the polling stations.
Watson complained that Taylor’s name appeared twice on the final voter registration roll (FRR), which the Supreme Court also ruled that it is an offense under the New Elections Law of 1986 for a voter to register twice.
Notwithstanding, the high court indicated that the admittance of the NEC that the appearance of Taylor’s name on the Final Registration Rolls in Tahn and Lofa Bridge in Grand Cape Mount County was due to an error on the part of NEC.
The Supreme Court pointed out that there was no intent shown that the Senator-elect registered twice for the purpose of voting twice, thereby not imputing any wrong doing to the CPP candidate.
“It was established that Taylor only voted in Tahn in the December 8, 2020 Special Senatorial Election, despite evidence that his name appeared twice on the FRRs.”
Moreover, the high court could not establish any evidence that individuals bearing the last name “Taylor” as found in the FRRs were family members of the Senator – elect, and that they registered and voted twice in the December election.
“There is still no evidence that the alleged act was with the knowledge and consent of Mr. Taylor,” the court mentioned.
Defeated candidate Watson ran to the high court after the NEC reaffirmed and confirmed the ruling of its Hearing Officer, declaring Tayloras the winner of the Special Senatorial Election conducted in Grand Cape Mount County.
The NEC Board of Commissioners (BOC), on 19 July 2021, through its Chairperson, Madam Davidetta Browne Lansanah following the ruling, instructed the Certification Committee of NEC-Liberia, with immediate effect to go ahead with all necessary modalities leading to the certification of Taylor as Senator-elect of Grand Cape Mount County.
But the process was delayed because the legal team of Watson, led by Cllr. Sheik Swaliou Sesay accepted the ruling and announced an appeal to the Supreme Court of Liberia.
In the BOC ruling, read by Commissioner Cllr. Ernestine Morgan Awar, the Administrative Court said the complainant Watson failed to prove by the preponderance of the evidence the allegations of double registration and voting, pre-marked ballots, stopping of his party agents by mobs of Taylor from entering voting centers and the forging of signatures of his party agents on the record of the count.
The BOC, through Commissioner Morgan Awar, said the Hearing Officer Atty. Fumba Swaray did not err to dismiss and deny the action of the appeal of fraud and irregularity filed by Watson, whose witnesses failed to identify any record of the count that signatures of their party agents were forged or did any witness testify to the issue of pre-marked ballots as alleged during the hearing.
On the allegations that Taylor double registered and voted in Lofa Bridge and Tahn Polling places, and that relatives of Mr. Taylor listed in the Final Registration Roll, FRR were the same that were listed in the FRR in Tahn, Cllr. Morgan Awar said the Board of Commissioners agrees with the Hearing Officer that the plaintiff, Watson failed to produce sufficient evidence by the preponderance of evidence to overturn the result in the Cape Special Senatorial Election.
All seven members of the Board of Commissioners heard the Grand Cape Mount County appeal case, but only the Co-Chairperson of NEC, Cllr. P. Teplah Reeves did not sign the ruling.