The Electoral Commission (EC) has debunked assertions that the usage of the Ghana Card as the sole identification document for the registration of new voters unto the national voters’ register will disenfranchise eligible voters.
The Deputy chairman of the EC, Dr Eric Bossman Asare said the registration process will be continuous, therefore there is no cause for alarm.
He was reacting to concerns raised by the longest serving EC chairman, Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan about the new C.I. entitled: Public Elections (Registration of Voters) Regulations, 2021, especially with the use of Ghana Card as the sole identification for registration, which he said could disenfranchise millions of eligible voters.
The opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) has also protested the use of the Ghana Card as the sole source document for continuous registration.
Last month, the EC placed before Parliament the C.I. which is expected to regulate continuous voter registration.
Per the new C.I., which will become law after 21 sitting days of Parliament, the EC is seeking to make the Ghana Card the sole form of identification for eligible voters who want to get onto the electoral roll.
The EC uses subsidiary legislation to govern elections, registration of voters and other activities.
C.I. 72 governed public elections and the registration of voters for the 2012 general election, C.I. 91 governed the 2016 general election, with C.I. 127 governing the immediate past general election of 2020.
Two years for registration
Dr Bossman Asare explained to Graphic Online that the voters registration, when rolled out in January next year, would go on for almost two years, as it would continue till 7 October 2024.
By that time, he said, eligible voters who wanted to register would have obtained their Ghana Cards to enable them to register as voters.
The EC, he said, already had more than 17 million voters on the national register and was looking at about two million new voters by the end of the two-year registration.
“There are challenges in obtaining the Ghana Card, we acknowledge, but we are not registering everybody in January for us to say those without the card would be affected. We will have a continuous registration till October 7, 2024 for all of them to vote in the 2024 elections.
“We want to avoid the registration of foreigners and minors. We want to make progress as a nation,” the Deputy EC chairman said.
He encouraged people who wanted to register as voters to take steps to acquire the Ghana Card, especially those who did not register in 2020 and those who had attained age 18 since the last elections.
“They should go and get the cards. As soon as we roll out registration, we are not going to stop registering till October 7, 2024,” he reiterated.
Dr Asare told Graphic Online that at an EC meeting with the Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC) recently, it was concluded that since the Ghana Card could be acquired at age 15, those who were going to turn age 18 should be encouraged to get their cards and then go to the district offices where they were located to register and be added onto the voters roll.
“When you look at this, how is this going to disenfranchise millions of Ghanaians? It should be clear that we are not going to use the Ghana Card for voting. It is only going to be used for registration, and when you register, we will issue you with our voter card,” he said.
“So if you have a child who is 16 years now, encourage the child to get the Ghana Card, so that when the child is 18, he or she can just walk to our district office to get the voters ID card,” he said.
The argument of disenfranchisement, Dr Bossman Asare said, could only hold if the National Identification Authority (NIA) stopped registering people and issuing Ghana Cards.
The NIA, he noted, was an institution established to do continuous registration and so it would be there in perpetuity, issuing cards as and when people went for its services.
Aside from the Ghana Card, Dr Afari-Gyan also raised issues with the fewer registration centres that would be created if the registration was limited to district offices of the EC, instead of polling stations, as per the new C.I.
The former EC boss observed that it could create a challenge for voters, as assigning them to polling stations and letting them know where they had registered at the district offices would be problematic.
However, Dr Asare said: “We have made a lot of progress as a country. We are registering you at the district. When you come, we will ask you where you stay in the district, and with that information, and knowing all the polling stations in the area, we will put you at the polling station where you stay.”
He said after that, there would be an exhibition of the register for people who registered to confirm their polling stations.
The Deputy EC Chairman further indicated that the EC would issue new voters with voter cards bearing the codes of the polling stations and constituencies and, therefore, any election officer would easily tell which polling stations people were expected to vote.
That, he said, was not new, as it was part of the process and was done during the 2020 registration without any problem.
The EC, he added, would continue to educate the public on the issues to make them understand them in order not to cause any challenge.
On the issue of the proposed two registers, that is, the electoral and the constituency registers, which, per the new C.I,. were expected to be used at polling stations on election day, Dr Afari-Gyan raised concerns that it could lead to multiple voting and ballot stuffing.
In response, the Director of Electoral Services at the EC, Dr Serebour Quaicoe, explained to Graphic Online that there was nothing new and that the same wording could be found in C.I. 72, passed in 2012 for the 2012 elections, and C.I. 91, used for the 2016 elections.
“It is because we have three types of elections – the general election, for which we use the national register; the parliamentary election, for which we use the constituency register that covers all the polling stations,” he explained.
Dr Quaicoe added that with the district assembly elections, “we have the electoral register. It is nothing new. We just lifted it from the previous C.I.s and added it to the new C.I.”.
He also explained that it would not lead to multiple voting because the system would detect any multiple voting.
“Again, when you have a particular register at a particular polling station, the biometric verification device (BVD) will scan the register, so once the register is scanned, the BVD will become polling station specific,” he said.
“Again, if you are at polling station one, you will not see polling station two, so the issue of non-communicating will not come in because we are not bringing all the polling station registers at one table. So there will not be an issue of multiple voting at all,” Dr Quaicoe insisted.
Amendment of C.I. before approval
Meanwhile, the Ranking Member on Parliament’s Subsidiary Legislation Committee, Andy Appiah-Kubi, has said the EC is yet to lay the draft C.I. in the House.
He said the committee had asked the EC to amend a portion of the C.I. that sought to make the Ghana Card the sole form of identification for eligible voters who wanted to get onto the national register to include the guarantor’s system.
Kubi said until the amendments were done, the EC could not lay the new C.I. in Parliament.
However, Dr Asare said the EC had no intention of withdrawing the C.I., but that it would be before the House for it to mature after the stipulated 21 days.