Clarifying the EC’s discovery of duplicates during registration and the cleaning thereof

Jean Mensah Electoral Commission Chairperson, Jean Mensa

Thu, 6 Aug 2020 Source: Atik Mohammed

Once again, people who purport to know more than anybody else in the country are making unfounded allegations based on a paucity of knowledge on how biometrics are employed in election management systems.

It is being said that the Ghana EC’s system should be able to pick duplicates immediately at the registration center as soon as it occurs. An analogy has been drawn to the creation of an email address. Sadly, albeit not unexpected, the ones leading the charge on these ill-informed and malicious allegations are supposed to be CSO activists whose priority as they have publicly stated, it is to educate the public.

For simplicity, let’s use the email analogy to explain the inadequacy of their knowledge of how the EC’s biometric systems work. Email service providers like the yahoos, google and Microsoft among others, all have a central user database that is linked worldwide so that you can only create one email address e.g. kbentil@xyz.com no matter where you are. If this email service provider xyz.com did not have a central user database and each country had its own server, then it’s possible to have one kbentil@xyz.com in Ghana and another kbentil@xyz.com in Nigeria but not for two kbentil@xyz.com to exist in the Ghana email server.

So if the mother company XYZ decides to now merge all the email accounts into one, duplicates will start showing up. It is that simple and nothing rocket-science about it at all.

We all know and our CSO friends like Kofi Bentil of IMANI ought to know that, the Ghanaian Electoral Commission’s biometic registration kits during the mass registration period, are all completely offline. During the registration in the field, it does not talk to a central database to know whether an applicant has already been registered at another registration center.

That is why there is the process of deduplication which is ongoing until the mass registration ends to pick up people who will attempt mischief by registering twice. This is a common standard of practice. This is what has always been the practice since Ghana’s voter registration went biometric in 2012.

All major shareholders in this process especially political parties, are fully aware of this. In fact, in all of the IPAC briefings regarding this year’s exercise, mention was always made of deduplication as the phase that would precede exhibition. This simply implies that, the process was going to be offline and therefore, deduplication would not be automatic.

However, during the continuous registration, checking for duplicates would be done at enrolment against the existing database of applicants to check for duplicates. This is possible because during this phase, the registration systems will be online.

Meanwhile, even in the offline mode during the ongoing mass registration, if an applicant attempts to register again on the same registration device, he/she is promptly identified.

It is also important to state that, research conducted on this subject indicates that, there is no voter list or system in the world that automatically cleans itself up. More so, there are electoral laws in this country that mandate human intervention when decisions that could potentially disenfranchise people are being taken. That is why there is the process of adjudication during which the biodata, biometrics and the circumstantial evidence are analysed to determine whether the duplicate registration was done in error or with intent to cheat the system.

Ghanaians should be reassured that the system invested into is working 100% the way it was built and expected to work. People who have little or zero knowledge on how these systems actually work, should not be making authoritative comments on these issues especially when such comments contaminate the discourse and starve ordinary Ghanaians of the truth and facts. In so doing, they injure the public and make mockery of themselves. These tend to undermine the public’s confidence in Civil Society Organisations; a situation that ought to be avoided.

It is also instructive to note that, the consistent mendacious claims that, cost of the procured BVMS is prohibitive are becoming sickening. It’s time, the apostles of these overly flogged untruths stopped and sought redemption.

Columnist: Atik Mohammed
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