Since the laying of CI 126 in Parliament which when matured would allow the Electoral Commission of Ghana to accept only Passport and the National Identification Authority (NIA) Card as the major proof of identification for registration unto the supposed New Voters Register, the NIA Registration has been brought into sharp focus.
Prior to the NDC Press Conference on Thursday, ASEPA had already published a research report that sought to compare, the Voter Turnout in 2016 alone with the number of people captured by the NIA on their system to satisfy the hypothesis that; assuming all the People who turned out to vote in 2016, turnout on election day in 2020, would they be able to Vote? The answer to this hypothesis was NO?
Per the data analysis that we conducted, extracting the data from the NIA website and comparing it with the Voter Turn in 2016 per region, We came to a firm conclusion that over 1.5 million people who Voted in 2016 cannot Vote in 2020 if the Electoral Commission decides to use the NIA card as the major means of Identification onto the New Voters Register.
Further studies later revealed that this earlier hypothesis could not paint the full picture of the Voter Suppression attempt by the Electoral Commission, since the 2016 Voter turnout is not guaranteed in 2020.
That is, more people who are eligible could turn out Vote and so to get the full picture we have to look at the Voter Population figures. So we went further to compare the Voter population figures per Region as against the Registration done by the NIA and the results are even way more alarming and that saying the Electoral Commission could disenfranchise 1.5 million Ghanaians in the first analysis was a serious understatement!
Folks in the 2019 District level elections, the Electoral Commission updated the Voters Register to capture New Voters as the law requires. On the upgraded Voters Register, Western Region has a Voter Population of 1,138,026 and Western North has a Voter Population of 502,122. This together brings the Voter population in the entire Western Region to 1,640,148 currently.
Now let's look at the NIA Registration in the Western Region...
After the NIA Registration in Western Region, only 530,684 people were captured in Western Region and 217,719 people were captured in the Western-North bringing the entire NIA coverage in Western Region to 748,403.
Now the Voter Population in the whole Western Region per 2019 updated Voters Register is 1,640,148, then the NIA goes there and Registers just 748,403 leaving a whopping 891,745 eligible Voters in Western Region alone who stand the risk of being disenfranchised in the 2020 elections.
Now this figure could be more considering the fact that the qualifying age for the NIA card is 15 years and that of the Voters ID card is 18 years. The NIA says that averagely 9% of the people they registered in all the Regions are persons below 18 years.
If we subtract this 9% from the 748,403 people the NIA registered, we are talking about almost 1 million people in Western Region alone who stand the risk of being disenfranchised.
Now the Electoral Commission in the CI 126 has made provisions for persons who do not have the NIA card or passport to provide two guarantors to certify their registration.
Now these guarantors must also possess the qualifying documents and of course the provision of guarantors is not an automatic qualification (like the passport and the NIA card).
The guarantors forms would be subject to litigation by Polling Agents of Political Parties who could challenge the eligibility of the registrant if they have doubts and in settler communities like the Western Region where most people travel from various parts of the country to engage in small scale mining or to work on cocoa farms, the risk of litigation would be very high and we believe less than 40% of the people using the guarantors forms could go through leaving 60% of nearly 1 million people who could be left uncaptured on the New Voters Register thereby unable to exercise their fundamental rights to vote.
We therefore recommend that the Electoral Commission study the demographics of this Country seriously and make informed amendments to the CI. 126 to allow the use of Voter's ID Card which at least 1.6 million people in the Western Region currently possess.
This would not only reduce the risk of litigation, it would also reduce the risk of potential violence and chaos at the Registration Centres which could be very detrimental especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
By Mensah Thompson, Executive Director, ASEPA (0542120628)
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