Politics of 2014-04-05

EC upgrades Biometric Verification Machines

The Electoral Commission (EC) has assured members of the public that the Biometric Verification Machines used in the 2012 general elections have been upgraded to avert persistent breakdown.

The Director of Training at the Commission, Augustine Okrah, gave the assurance when he spoke at the consultative forum on the public elections regulations (CI75).

Mr Okrah said after the successful upgrade of the machines, it was recently used to conduct district assembly elections in Lower Manya Krobo in the Eastern Region without any hitches.

He said most of the challenges were as a result of the machines shutting down when their batteries ran out without any prompting.

With the current upgrade, he said, the verification machines would prompt the electoral officer to change the battery before it would shut down.

“It is important to note that when the machines shut down automatically, as a result of low battery, it takes a very long time to restart again, and the upgrade will ensure that the machine signals the officer to change the battery manually to prevent the automatic shutdown,” he added.

Backup

Currently, he said provisions were also being made to furnish each of the 26,004 polling stations in the country with two additional upgraded machines to serve as backup.

“That should prevent any of the machines shutting down, and prevent the widespread occurrence that was experienced during the general election in 2012,” he said.

District Level Elections

Mr Okrah said the upcoming District Level Elections (DLE) would be used as a test case to assure the Ghanaian voter that the electronic verification system had come to stay and it would work.

Biometric verification machine critical

The director of training said the biometric verification machine was very critical to the country’s voting procedure, as Section 30 of the CI 75 requires that before a person is given the ballot paper, a fingerprint or facial recognition must be carried out to establish that the person is the registered voter whose name and particulars appeared in the voters register.

Special voting controversy

Unlike the previous CI 15 that gave journalists, among other categories of people, the opportunity for a special voting, the CI 75 did not allow journalists to qualify for special voting, and as a result many journalists who were on duty during the 2012 elections were disenfranchised.

During the consultative forum, a consensus was reached among participants, who included representatives of political parties, youth groups, journalists, and the EC, to embark on the appropriate steps to amend the interpretations provided in the CI 75, which described only security officers and election officers as special voters.

However, Section 21 (1a) of the CI 75 provides that a voter may apply to the returning officer of the constituency in which the voter is registered to be entered as a special voter if, as a result of election duties, the voter will not be able to be present at the polling station where the voter is registered on the day of the election.

Participants drawn from various political parties, civil society organisation and media urged the EC to use the upcoming district assemblies’ elections as a test case to assure Ghanaians that verification machines work.