Why Ghana does not need a new voters’ register for the 2020 elections

Voting Poll File File photo

Wed, 25 Dec 2019 Source: Dr Frankie Asare-Donkoh

Why does Ghana need to discard existing voters’ register and prepare a new one almost every four years when there are presidential and parliamentary elections?

For some time now, we have been repeatedly told by successive governments since 1992 of the need to have new voters’ register. For that reason, huge sums of money are spent in engaging what they told us to be expert companies who were to give us registers which could be reliable.

What has happened to technology? All last three of four registers were captured by computers and stored in databases, so we were told. So, what has happened to the databases? Has the word ‘technology’ vanished from Ghana’s (Government and Electoral Commission (EC) vocabulary or government and EC have never heard of it?

The understanding they made us to have was that, with the capture of information unto the databases, those who turn 18 years at any given time could just walk to any EC district office to register to vote and their names would be easily added to the existing register. What has changed? Or what has happened to the databases?

The most disturbing aspect of our infantile way of doing things, with particular reference to the compilation of new voters’ register almost every four years, is that, we carry our pan in our hands and beg other countries which applied proper economic and common sense in their use of money to fund the compilation of our new voters’ registers. And in the past, some of the international partners have given money for that for fear that if they did not, we would kill ourselves after the election.

After the last election, the EC had ample time – four good years – to clean the existing register, make the necessary addition of those who mistakenly couldn’t find their names on it, and those who turned 18 after the last election.

The register used for the last election under the EC headed by Charlotte Osei, who was appointed by the NDC which was then in government was good enough to ensure that the incumbent government could not rig the election, that is if it had planned to do that.

If that register was credible enough to enable an opposition party, NPP, to win the election, why the need to discard this register completely and compile a new one? This does not make both economic and human sense, especially when the country needs more money to build additional classrooms for secondary schools across the country to stop the double-track currently inconveniencing both students and parents.

Why didn’t the EC prepare a new voters’ register before the referendum on the creation of the six regions? In the end they claimed success for the referendum. And just after the district and unit level elections on December 17, 2019, the EC top executives have told us everything went smoothly and successfully. And it was the same existing register which was used. Why then does the EC need a new register for the parliamentary and presidential election in December 2020?

In Israel, seven parliamentary elections have been held within a short space of 16 years – one in 2003, 2006, 2009, 2013, March 17, 2015, April 9, 2019, and September 17, 2019. And in Spain, parliamentary elections were held in 2008, 2011, 2015, 2016 and April 2019.

In Israel, in this year alone two elections were held after no government emerged after the first one and it’s most likely another will follow soon. In Spain, just within two years, two elections were held. Where would these countries have had the money to prepare a new voters’ register for the quick successive elections? They all use technology, a system, which I believe, our Electoral Commission and government have never heard of or don’t understand its benefit.

Does His Excellency the President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, have doubts in the credibility of the voters’ register which was used for the 2016 elections which got him elected and many of his party’s MPs elected? If there was a doubt, why didn’t he and his party bring it out even before he was sworn in?

My candid opinion is that, when it comes to issues of national spending, there shouldn’t be NPP vs NDC. There must be national interest, economic sense, and human sense, all combined for the consideration of the lifestyles of the ordinary Ghanaian.

I don’t think the EC must be allowed to prepare a new register for the 2020 election. The commission must start right now to display the existing register at each of its district offices for people who cannot find their names to register, and those turned 18 years since 2016 to be added.

Mr President, you swore to protect the purse of the nation. Please, don’t let anyone advise you to sanction this non-justifiable national waste of resources to compile a new voters’ register.

By the way, where is the Council of State? Where is the National House of Chiefs who became so vocal on the referendum to elect district chief executives? Where is the Christian of Ghana, the Ghana Pentecostal Council, the Catholic Bishops Conference, and the Muslim Council? Sadly, all the other political parties become dead after elections, so it seems a waste of time for one to call on them to do anything. And where are the civil societies? They are busy fighting the corner of the Auditor-General, who by some of his actions, thinks he and his office is above the laws, hence he can do procurement without recourse to laid down rules.

Mr President, your ‘Ghana beyond aid’ mantra must include ‘Ghana beyond wasteful expenditure. Your party MPs in Parliament are already urging the EC on to go ahead of this useless exercise when the EC has not explained to Ghanaians what was wrong with the existing register. On whose side are the NPP MPs in Parliament on? Ghanaians or themselves? This is not about party loyalty, it’s about the interest of Ghana and with due respect, we expect common-sense approach on this issue.

One thing must be clear to all political parties, especially the NPP – new or old voters’ register alone will not win them an election, otherwise, NDC should have won in 2016.

Mr President, stop this waste, your free SHS programme which is a landmark inheritance you are giving Ghanaians even yet unborn needs funds to succeed.

Please, stop this waste!

Columnist: Dr Frankie Asare-Donkoh