The outbreak of the deadly novel coronavirus in the country has forced the Electoral Commission (EC) to push forward the planned registration exercise for the compilation of a new voters’ register for the December 2020 general elections.
It said in a statement Tuesday that it will go ahead with the controversial registration exercise because plans have reached an advance stage, but pointed out it will not be done on the April 18 originally scheduled.
“The Commission wishes to state that the compilation of the New Voter’s Register has not been cancelled. Plans are far advanced for the successful take-off of the registration process,” it said.
On the back of a four-week ban on public gathering announced by the President Nana Akufo-Addo, the EC said it will “in due course” announce a new date for the registration exercise
It assured the public that the necessary steps are being taken “to guarantee the safety of the citizenry and safeguard them from the virus”.
“In this regard, the Electoral Commission will put in place concrete measures including providing sanitizers at all polling stations and providing a conducive atmosphere at all registration centres so as to protect its stakeholders from the virus among others,” it said.
The EC has accordingly asked the public to prepare for the registration exercise, stating “your vote is your power”.
Meanwhile, the Commission is seeking to amend the constitutional instrument guiding Ghana’s elections, to prevent people from using old voters ID cards and birth certificates as a primary form of identification in the new registration exercise.
Once the proposed amendments are approved by parliament, a Ghanaian passport or the Ghana Card (Ghana’s national ID) will be the only primary documents that will be accepted as proof of nationality for the registration.
The minority in parliament has already kicked against the EC’s move.
“It’s not a good idea. And we are vehemently opposed to it. We think it infringes Article 42 of the constitution. We are opposed to it. And we are going to ask them to go back…” MP for South Dayi, Rockson Dafiamekpor, is quoted my myjoyonline.
“And indeed, when they said passport, you know the primary source of identification to get a passport is a birth certificate. Why are they asking for passport and not the primary document birth certificate?” he quizzed.
Why new biometric system?
The Commission took the decision to acquire a new Biometric Voter Management System for the upcoming general elections based on the advice of its IT team and external consultants.
The two concluded it would be prudent to acquire a new system rather than refurbish the current system.
“It is important to note that the equipment that the entire voter management system runs on, from enrolment, duplication, adjudication to voters’ verification is obsolete and no longer supported by their Original Equipment Manufacturers,” the EC claimed earlier this year.
New voters’ register is a done deal
Despite criticism and resistance against the compilation of a new voters’ register, the EC has said it will go ahead with the exercise.
According to the EC, the scheduled engagement with the 21-member Eminent Advisory Committee and the political parties on Thursday, January 30 will not to seek consensus on whether or not to go on with the new registration exercise set to begin on April 18.
“You can’t get consensus anywhere; it can never happen and it will never happen. If we want to get consensus before we act, then we will never act,” Dr Serebour Quaicoe, the Director of Electoral Services, said on TV3 Saturday.
The January 30 meeting, he explained, had been arranged for the EC to inform the stakeholders of its programmes concerning the new voters’ register, and solicit views on how best it can be implemented.
“We have our programme; we will explain to them and then we move on with the programme,” he stated, adding “there is no doubt about us doing the registration”.
He said the EC is not under any obligation to have consensus on issues before acting, saying “with respect to compiling new voters register, we are convinced beyond reasonable doubt there is the need for it”.