During the 22-year rule of former Gambian President Yaya Jammeh, dubious voter registration processes contributed to election outcomes that lacked credibility. Now, with the first presidential elections under President Adama Barrow taking place in December 2021, an accurate voter register will be critical in ensuring credible and representative polls.
From May 29 through July 11, NDI’s local citizen observation partner--Peace Ambassadors - The Gambia (PAG)--observed the voter registration process to certify that it was conducted with integrity. PAG trained and deployed 53 observers and six regional coordinators to registration centers across the 53 constituencies of The Gambia to collect and send data about the registration process and any key incidents to PAG’s national information center. Data collection and analysis occurred over three phases (each consisting of three observation days) at the beginning, middle, and end of the registration period. PAG publicly released updates before the registration process on their observation methodology and after the conclusion of each of the three phases on their observation findings. While PAG and other civil society had observed past election days, this was the first time that any civil society observer group had observed the voter registration process in a systematic way; this was also the first time PAG had used SMS texting technology to collect data, allowing the group to report in near real-time on how the voter registration exercise was progressing.
Following the conclusion of the registration exercise, PAG presented their final observation report to election stakeholders, including Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) representatives, the commissioner of Police, National Assembly members, and civil society and media partners. PAG reported that while the registration process went relatively smoothly, there were some issues with equipment malfunctions that hindered voters from receiving their voter cards and required them to come back later or go to another center to have their card printed, as well as lax enforcement of COVID 19 protocols.
By bringing CSOs and key government stakeholders together to review these findings, PAG has created a platform to enable election administrators and other stakeholders to benefit from observers’ findings and explore recommendations to improve election processes ahead of the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections. PAG is also engaging citizens on their activities by encouraging the media to cover their events and by posting on their Facebook account.
NDI will support PAG to review the voter register once it is released and to continue their dialogue with the IEC and other electoral stakeholders should any concerns arise during their review. The Institute will also continue to assist PAG to deepen its ability to conduct systematic election and electoral process observation as the group prepares to observe the first presidential elections under President Barrow.
NDI and PAG’s voter registration observation work was funded by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).
Author: Zoe Hartman, Program Associate, Central and West Africa Team
NDI is a non-profit, non-partisan, non-governmental organization that works in partnership around the world to strengthen and safeguard democratic institutions, processes, norms and values to secure a better quality of life for all. NDI envisions a world where democracy and freedom prevail, with dignity for all.