Brooklyn Center, Minn. – In many parts of the Twin Cities the first winter snow storm forced many Minnesotans to stay indoors and hibernate. But apparently, it would have to take more than snowy roads and ice cold weather to prevent nearly 2,000 Liberians from casting their votes in the OLM elections.
Brooklyn Center High School was a sight of sorts. The jam packed parking lot was too small. Motorists literally found a parking spot only when someone left causing traffic build up. No one lost their cool, though. From their cars men guided their elderly mothers towards the school and women carried their babies on their shoulders.
The election was truly a family affair. Weaving through the crowds of people once beyond the school doors required great dexterity. Volunteers were having a difficult time controlling human traffic, especially after 2 p.m when most of the people were coming from church.
The enthusiasm and energy was abundant. Candidates made last minute pitches and gave interviews, and voters voiced their opinions. While few voters were willing to openly disclose their candidate of preference, many talked about their reasons for voting.
“I am voting for someone who promotes peace – someone who promotes sharing and caring,” said Lillian Grieh.
A great majority of the voters said they were glad to have a voice and thus did not want to waste the opportunity.
Reactions to the electoral process were mixed. Seyon Nwanleh, director of the Amon-nue Sports and Social Association (ASSA, Inc) commended the Electoral Commission for all its hard work regardless. As a show of support his organization ASSA, together with Africa Health Action donated water and snacks to the commission.
Others were not so pleased.
“The voting process has been too long, there is no organization!” lamented Ophelia Mathis, who has been a Minnesota resident for 17 years and voted at almost every OLM election since she has been here.
Twelve-year Minnesota resident and immigrant and refugee project specialist, Patrick Kugmeh echoed Ophelia’s sentiments. “The problem with the ballots is that
there is no indication as to how many people you can vote for. If many people do the wrong thing their ballot is null and void and their time here has been wasted!” he complained.
“Next time the electoral commission needs to have some sort of voter’s education,” suggested Kugmeh.
The chairman of the electoral commission, Francis Zazay, acknowledged that there were some challenges during the electoral process, but was generally proud of the work his group of nine members and twelve volunteers had accomplished, given the time they had for preparation.
“Last elections they had five months to prepare for the elections, but this time we did everything in two and a half months and as a result ended up with a much smaller hall” he explained. “We could not move the election date because the constitution does not permit it” he added.
The commission also intended to request permission to use the county voting booths, but was not able to pull through with that idea due to time constraints.
He said he hoped next time the board of governors will offset the electoral process within the required time frame which is six months before the next election.