Through the IPCC, the parties agreed on a code of conduct, and commission staffers used the meetings to familiarize the parties with specific aspects of election-day procedures. The gatherings also provided an opportunity for the electoral commissioners to assert their authority. They warned party leaders that they would revoke the accreditation of parties and candidates involved in election-related violence or harassment.
To encourage broad voter participation, the commission sought to register as many eligible voters as possible. Liberia's census figures -- from 1984 -- were too old to be useful in drawing electoral boundaries; the commissioners decided that a voter registration drive would produce the data they needed as a proxy for a full census. They recruited registration officers, established voter sign-up centers, and trained the officers in registration procedures.
During a 30-day period between April and May 2005, 1.3 million Liberians -- 90 percent of eligible citizens -- registered as voters. Village elders vouched for the age and residency of people who lacked identifying documents. Commission staff recorded people's names and other relevant information, and took two photos. One photo accompanied the registrant's name on a voter roll, and the other was put on an identification card given to the registrant on the spot. Registration staff then sent the voter rolls to the commission's headquarters, where staff entered the names and photos into a computer system. Complications, such as cases of multiple registrations, were investigated by the district magistrates.
While voter registration efforts were largely successful, a major challenge arose from displaced persons. Many Liberians who were displaced by the war and living in camps refused to register unless UNMIL moved them back to their original homes. They feared that after the elections, the new government would give little attention to their plight. But returning all the displaced people to their homes would be impossible before the October elections; many of their villages had been severely damaged and lacked essential infrastructure. The elections commissioners traveled to the camps and urged people to sign up to vote, but many balked. Johnson-Morris faced the prospect of tens of thousands of eligible voters refusing to participate in the elections.
The commissioners consulted with the transitional government and decided to allow people in camps to register in the counties to which they would be repatriated. For their votes to count in the House and Senate elections, the displaced people had to cast their ballots in their home counties. Displaced people could vote for the president and vice president regardless of whether they were still in the camps or back home at the time of the elections. This arrangement still failed to satisfy many, and the issue continued to simmer for months. With the elections nearing, Johnson-Morris turned to someone she knew had a strong rapport with the displaced communities: Brigadier General Luka Nyeh Yusuf, a Nigerian with the UNMIL peacekeeping force responsible for ensuring the safety of the camps. He held multiple meetings with senior leaders in the various camps to discuss issues of concern, and after months of persuasion, the leaders agreed to encourage the registration effort. In the end, about 61,000 of the estimated 140,000 people living in formal camps in Liberia signed up to vote.