Who gets minors on voters register?

Tue, 12 Apr 2016 Source: Kobby Asmah

The Electoral Commission (EC) intends embarking on a special or limited voter registration exercise beginning from April 28, 2016.

With the 11-day exercise ending on May 8, 2016, it is incumbent on the EC and the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) to not wait till the last hour to begin the process of sensitising, educating and creating the needed civic awareness to ensure that this very important national exercise succeeds.

The exercise is one of the important activities the EC will be rolling out for the smooth conduct of the 2016 presidential and parliamentary elections.

While historically, a limited registration exercise does not attract as big a turnout as the general one does, the exercise is very crucial because it will afford first-timers the opportunity to register not only to participate in this year’s elections but future elections as well.

The exercise will also form part of efforts by the EC to ensure that a credible voters register can be compiled ahead of the November elections.

Electoral offences

It is equally important to remind ourselves of the unlawful and unacceptable practices that have characterised limited voter registration exercises over the years. Political parties, particularly the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the New Patriotic Party (NPP), have accused each other of not being fair to the exercise. The desire had always been to take advantage of the process which ultimately bear elements of threat to the peace of the nation.

Minors on register

One of the electoral offences is the inclusion of minors (voters less than 18 years old) in the voter register. A close examination of images of those captured during the last biometric voter registration exercise showed that minors were registered all over the country. The immediate past Chairman of the EC, Dr Afari-Gyan, in an interaction with the Editors Forum, Ghana in 2012 showed copies of the voters register containing images of minors from the Northern Region, specifically Tamale; the Ashanti; Volta; Brong Ahafo; Upper East and West regions.

There is no denying the fact that the issue of minors on the register can create needless concerns and push the country to the brink of conflict and violence. But the questions begging for answers are who should be held responsible for getting minors in the register? Indeed, how did these minors in the first place get their names into the register and who are responsible for this problem?

Ironically the political parties have largely been blamed and interestingly, the same political parties turn round to blame the EC for such challenges.

It has therefore become imperative for all stakeholders to work towards a relatively credible, free, fair, and transparent election in the country. Some have argued that the primary stakeholders, including political parties, the EC, the NCCE and the security services must be up and doing to ensure that these minors did not get registered and that canker could be nipped in the bud once and for all.

Indeed, the entire nation, particularly parents of these minors, must be involved as they cannot escape its consequences.

Parents must be aware of what their children are doing so far as the voter registration is concerned and must do everything possible to prevent them from registering since they are violating the laws of the nation.

Foreigners on register

Another electoral offence is the penchant of some political parties to bring nationals from neighbouring countries to register in Ghana. Some registrant also wants to have their names in the register of voters in more than one polling station.

Pose Challenge

All these issues pose a big challenge to the EC in the conduct of elections.

The problem is on Election Day no one can prevent registered minors or foreigners from voting as long as their names are in the register.

The EC also has no power to remove the names from the register except upon a court order.

Political parties must, therefore, advise their supporters who are minors to desist from participating in the coming voter limited registration exercise.

They must drum home the point that minors registration is a crime. Indeed, everyone, including parents and even teachers must be concerned about the issue of registration of minors and as well as alert parents and teachers about the dangers of minors trying to vote.

Some have said the minors don’t necessarily vote in an election but clandestinely acquire the voter ID card to receive remittances from their relatives abroad, as well as to enable them to undertake certain transactions with the voters ID card. This is untenable and must stop since it is simply against the law.

All must resist the temptation of pushing the nation into a frenzy of hopelessness and insecurity.

Commitment to peace

Notwithstanding these, all persons qualified for the limited registration exercise must take advantage of the unique opportunity to register to enable them to perform their constitutional obligations.

Registration is the first step along the several important aspects of elections, and it is incumbent for all qualified to take advantage in order to discharge their civic responsibility.

Ensuring free, fair, credible and transparent election is the anchor upon which peace in elections is built, and all of us have the national responsibility to fulfill such an obligation.

Our individual and collective commitment to peace for our society must not, for any reason, be sacrificed on the altar of partisan interests and any groups desire to win political power, by any means.

All Ghanaians, as individual citizens, stakeholder institutions, political parties, the EC, the media and civil society must rise above all personal and partisan interest and work for real peace as we go through the national exercise next week Monday and inch towards the November polls.

Columnist: Kobby Asmah