General News of 2014-05-29

Clean register before adding new voters – DI tells EC

The Danquah Institute has called on the Electoral Commission to suspend next month’s planned registration of new voters and rather concentrate on auditing the voters register.

According to the governance and policy think tank, the evidence presented in the Supreme Court during the presidential election petition in 2013 showed that, the EC was not on top of issues when it comes to double registration in the voters register.

It said the only logical step now was for a comprehensive audit to be conducted on the current register, as a guarantee to its credibility.

District level elections are to be held before the end of this year and the EC has planned to register new voters between June 20 and June 29, 2014 under what is described as a limited registration exercise, which is normally done before any election.

During the period, the voters register would be opened purposely for people who had attained the age of 18 since the last registration exercise in 2012 and others above 18 who, for one reason or another, could not register in 2012.

In the past, during such exercises, some people who have their names already in the register have registered again but this time around, the EC has said it has a system to detect registered voters who would attempt to register again and warned that offenders would be drastically dealt with.

Already, the EC has increased the number of polling stations from 26,000 to 35,000 as part of its preparations for the smooth conduct of district level elections.

It has also procured more biometric verification devices (BVDs), and plans to put two BVDs at the disposal of each polling station during the upcoming elections.

However, at a press conference in Accra Thursday afternoon, Mr Boakye Agyarko, a fellow of the Danquah Institute said the EC ought to initiate steps such as a complete audit of the voters register to repair its credibility, before any further registration of new voters was done.

“The EC must find money for this process if we are to continue believing that the body has the interests of Ghana’s democracy and not any other parochial interest at heart,” he said.

“An audit should be seen as the first necessary step in ensuring that we have free, fair, transparent, and peaceful general elections in 2016. Without it, the risk of having another disputed election looms large,” he said.

The Electoral Commission through a Deputy Chairperson, Georgina Opoku Amankwa recently acknowledged at a public forum that it has not been biting in the previous time but this time it will bite and that anyone who was found to have double-registered, “would be sorry”.

But addressing the press conference in Accra, Mr Agyarko’s argued that, it was amply demonstrated in court that “all is not well with Ghana’s register”, adding that “the petitioners in the case proved this point beyond all reasonable doubt.”

He explained that it was proven beyond all reasonable doubt in court that there were multiple registrations contained in the biometric voter register and that the actual total of registered voters in the country was still in doubt, and also the fact that different voter registers were apparently used for the Presidential and Parliamentary elections.

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