Contrary to the generally held perception about the turnout of registration exercises on first days, the compilation of the new voters register which commenced, Monday, June 30th 2020 has proven to be an exception.
After months of legal battles about the propriety of the compilation of a new voters register, the Supreme Court finally gave the Electoral Commission the green light to proceed. On the foundation of several promises, the Electoral Commission proceeded to set June 30, 2020 for the process.
But as though the EC was overwhelmed and unprepared, the fortunes of the process was entirely overshadowed by a cloud of uncertainty as pockets of frustration, anger and confusion marred the process in several areas.
This has once again resurrected debates about the need for the new register in this period a pandemic continues to tighten its grip on nations.
GhanaWeb in this article hopes to bring to bear some major highlights of the process on the first day.
According to GhanaWeb’s tour and other media reports, the notion of satisfying safety protocols were mere figments of the imagination at some registration centres.
Registration Officers in charge of the process at centres in the Tema enclave told GhanaWeb that the Electoral Commission made appropriate provisions for social distancing protocols and other precautionary measures, but registrants occasionally broke it due to impatience and other related discrepancies about the process.
In fact, in some centres as the St James JHS No. 1 at New Lashibi had beautifully arranged about 20 chairs for registrants in strict adherence to safety protocols on the compound of the centre where the actual registration was going on but outside potential registrants were overcrowded and frustrated.
They told GhanaWeb that the process was dragging as some of them came as early as 4 am but were yet to be asked to enter the centre.
“They told us that they’ll make sure we ensure social distancing but if you’re only observing it in the centre but where there’s the line, you’re not observing it then we’re in danger. Unless the government is trying to tell us that he’s not concerned about the rise of the COVID-19 cases…,” a registrant at the centre berated.
Another major issue which generated anger, frustration and confusion at various centres, was the clustering and phasing system of registration which the Electoral Commission has adopted. In the words of some frustrated registrants, the EC failed at advertising and explaining to full remits of the initiative thus making it difficult to locate their centres.
Some persons told the team they joined long queues for hours only to be told their centre was not part of the first phase. Others said they roamed several registration centres before finally locating the appropriate one. They asked the Electoral Commission to add details of the Cluster System to the running adverts on TV and radio.
To make matters worse, registrants said EC officials on the ground had failed to address their concerns or even talk to them.
At the Sakumono Estate Complex School, for instance, a Deputy Director of Research, Monitoring and Evaluation at EC, Fred Tetteh voluntarily took it upon himself to address angry and frustrated registrants who had resorted to raining insults.
Provisions were made for security personnel who at some centres were nonchalant about the process until confusion erupted, or saw persons with microphones and cameras moving around.
However, some were quite concerned about the registration process as they constantly manoeuvred their way through the crowd to shout “social distancing…ensure social distancing…move away from there…”. But this form of panacea was only lip service.
No more than 5 security personnel were seen at a particular registration centre. Some areas were as few as two or three, at the time the news team got there.
Presence of party agents
As though they had rehearsed and were ready to recite their roles, some representatives of the two main political parties were working hand-in-hand with EC officials to duly register qualified registrants.
One of such persons at the TMA primary School B, told GhanaWeb the process was a “bit slow and there’s only one camera here, so far that has been the challenge.”
Provision of seats
The Electoral Commission managed to provide seats for a number of expected registrants at some registration centres like St James JHS No. 1 and Community 2 police barracks 1. But for areas like TMA primary School B and TMA primary school No.1 Sakumono village 2, a huge chunk of registrants were left at the mercy of the sun.
Some of such persons had to resort the sitting on the bare floor as and when they got tired of standing.
This was also a major contributing factor to their agitation and fury. As though they had rehearsed, they lamented that “if the Electoral Commission was ill-prepared for the process why would it bother.”
Delay in process
The guarantor system was also one of the major problems of the day and a major contributor to the delay in the process. Registration officers told GhanaWeb, the process takes at most 10 minutes to complete but in specific instances where guarantors are required, it takes longer.
Also, some senior citizens caused delays as it was barely fruitful to get specific personal information from them.
The Deputy Direct of Research, Monitoring and Evaluation at EC again told GhanaWeb that, taking the fingerprints of some senior citizens was also one of the main challenges.
In almost all the centres GhanaWeb visited, registrants observed that only one machine was in use and sometimes one registration officer writing names thus the delay in the process.
“It’s a bit slow with the writing of names and I can see that there’s only one camera here, that has been the challenge…,” a registrant said.
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