FALSE: Gambia’s voters register is NOT bloated by 300,000 voters?

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IEC CEO Mr Sambujang Njie and IEC Chairperson Mr Momarr Njai © Yusef Taylor
IEC CEO Mr Sambujang Njie and IEC Chairperson Mr Momarr Njai © Yusef Taylor

By Yusef Taylor, @FlexDan_YT

A claim being widely circulated on social media platforms including WhatsApp and Facebook is suggesting “300K votes obtained by Jammeh in 2011 but lost in 2016 [were] re-added to the register in 2021”.

The claim is raising concerns about the credibility of the 2021 presidential election which has already been disputed by some opposition parties – the Gambian Supreme Court recently dismissed a legal challenge to President Adama Barrow’s recent election victory.

FactCheck: The data used in this Fact Check starts with the 1996 Presidential Election and ends with the 2021 Presidential Elections. The IEC starts an entirely new voter register every 10 years and conducts Supplementary Voter Registration before every major election.

300k Voters’ Cards Burnt in 2016 Dropped Voter Turnout

One of the queries raised by the viral message argues that “in 2016, 300K cards belonging to the APRC were claimed to have been burnt in their bureau before the elections. The exclusion of these supposed 300K voters presumably dropped the voter turnout in 2016 to 59.36%”.

When the data is looked at in isolation the argument that voter turnout dropped from 83% in 2011 to 59% in 2016 appears to raise reasonable suspicion. However, when the data is looked at holistically it can be seen that voter turnout was also 59% in 2006 when there was a supplementary voter registration exercise.

Since there were no reports of mass burning of voter’s cards in 2006 the identical voter turnout of 59% for both 2016 and 2006 indicates something else which is common to both years. The table below shows that the two years when there was supplementary voter registration, voter turnout has been below 60% and all years when there has been a fresh voter registration, voter turnout has been greater than 80%.

This underlines that whenever there is a new voter register there has been a high voter turnout and whenever there is a supplementary voter register, voter turnout has been low.

YearRegistered VotersIncrease in Reg. VotersVotes CastVoter TurnoutDescription
2021962,15775,579859,56789%New Voter Register
2016886,57889,649525,96359%Supplementary Voter Register
2011796,929126,593657,78783%New Voter Register
2006670,336161,035392,68559%Supplementary Voter Register
2001509,30162,760457,48490%New Voter Register
1996446,541394,53788%IPC Created the Voter Register

Compilation of Election Data Accessed at IEC Website (by Yusef Taylor).

Speaking to the Head of Communications at the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), Mr Makan Khan he refuted the allegations which he says are “malicious” and contains “no iota of truth”.

According to Mr Khan to say that the 300,000 voters cards burnt in 2016 were used in the 2021 Presidential Elections “is misleading and malicious because the previous voters register is now expired and all voters’ cards from that register are obsolete”.

The statement that those voters’ cards were used in the Presidential elections is malicious and there is no iota of truth in them.

Speaking to Mr Khan he made me understand that previous voters’ cards cannot be used in future elections. This message was reiterated on the day that the IEC launched its voters’ registration drive.

On 28th May 2021 the IEC held a press briefing with members of the media to launch its voters registration campaign. At around the 6mins and 40 secs mark the IEC Chairperson Alieu Momarr Njai announced that “the previous General Voter Registration was conducted in 2011. There was one supplementary registration done in 2016”.

IEC’s Chief Election Officer (CEO) Mr Sambujang Njie also informed the media at [around the 30 mins mark] that “by tomorrow [29th May 2021] the existing voters’ cards will be declared nullified. So, the cards you are having today has some few hours to expire.

Mr Njie elaborated to explain “that all Gambians from Banjul across the country should go and get a new voter’s card to be able to participate in the upcoming elections be it Presidential Elections, National Assembly Elections, Local Government elections (that is Mayors and Councilors or Chairpersons) and By-Elections in the future.”

Towards the latter stages of the press conference [around 1hour mark], IEC Staff conducted a demonstration of how a voter’s card is issued. One of the main differences between the previous and current voters cards highlighted by the IEC is that all new voters’ cards contain the signature of the current IEC Chairperson Alieu Momar Njai. The previous Voters Cards which are now expired contained the signature of previous IEC Chairperson Mr Mustapha Carayol.

Verdict: According to the IEC only voters cards included in the new Voters Register can be used to vote. All voters’ cards in the previous voter’s register can no longer be used. Therefore, insinuations that 300k Voters Cards obtained by former President Jammeh in 2011 were added to the register in 2021 is false.

 

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Sang Mendy, managing director of the Media Academy for Journalism and Communication (MAJAC), is by default the head of Fact Check Gambia. Sang holds a BA in Journalism and Digital Media from the University of The Gambia. He also holds an Advanced Diploma in Mass Communication and a Higher Teachers Certificate. Prior to being the manager, he worked as a journalism trainer and a radio producer. Sang spends his spare time mentoring the young.

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