Politics of 2014-04-04

EC to embark on limited registration

The Electoral Commission (EC) of Ghana will conduct a limited registration exercise for voters aged 18.

The exercise will also be used to register those who, for one reason or another, could not register during the last voter registration exercise. This is part of the commission’s preparation towards the district level election this year.

The Chairman of the EC, Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, was addressing participants in a consultative forum on the Public Elections Regulations (C.I. 75), in Kumasi.

He accused politicians of making a fetish out of the biometric verification.

He warned those who had already registered not to register again since it was an offence to do double registration.

The forum was attended by representatives of the political parties, religious bodies, civil society and the media.

Dr. Afari-Gyan asked the eligible voters who were disenfranchised in the last election because they could not be identified by the verification machine to blame the politicians for that.

According to him, it was the politicians who came out with the ‘No Verification, No Vote’ mantra, which the EC adopted to conduct the last general election. That led to some people being disenfranchised because they could not be identified by the Biometric Verification Device (BVD).

He indicated that the verification process started with the registration of the voter not only using the BVD to recognise voters’ fingerprints.

According to him, even though some electorates had their names, pictures and bar code information properly checked by the system, because the BVD could not confirm their identity, they were not allowed to vote. That, he said, could have been avoided if the political parties were not that strict with the ‘no verification no vote’ decision that guided the election in December 2012.

He said besides one having his or her name and picture in the register, a confirmation or attestation should be enough for one to cast his or her ballot, as was done in other jurisdictions and not necessarily using the BVD to identify voters. He added, “the essence of verification is to prove your identity.”

He also said he was looking forward to the day where a presidential candidate would be denied the opportunity to vote because the BVD failed to validate his/her identity.

That was when “they would realise the enormity of the problem.”

Dr. Afari-Gyan parried accusations that the commission created constituencies that had lower populations than what was stipulated by Ghana’s constitution.

He disagreed with suggestions that the EC had violated the constitution by creating constituencies in areas where it should not have done so, and asked that the accusation be laid on the doorstep of the politicians.

The EC chair stated that as long as the politicians “are allowed to create small districts, we will give them constituencies.”

He bemoaned the lack of qualified candidates in district level elections, in the country and said that did not augur well for the development of the country.

Dr. Afari-Gyan also said many people did not show interest in the district level elections in which people are elected to serve at the district assembly where the development of the districts are discussed.

He appealed to Ghanaians, particularly technocrats, to offer themselves for election to have good calibre of people in the district assemblies and to bring their expertise to bear in the development of the districts.

According to him, this year’s district level elections would be tied with the constitutional review referendum. He, therefore, warned that if the low turnout which usually characterised the district assembly elections was experienced, it could invalidate the referendum.

He also said for a referendum to be valid, at least 40 per cent of registered voters should cast their votes.