Catholic Bishops Favour New Voter Register

Most Rev. Joseph Osei-Bonsu and Charlotte Osei – EC Boss

The Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference says the Electoral Commission (EC) should take urgent steps to investigate the allegation that about 76,000 persons from neighbouring Togo have their names in Ghana’s biometric voter register.

‘The allegation of over 76,000 names of persons from neighbouring countries discovered in the current register must be investigated and the proper process be conducted if the allegations are found to be true.  If this and other allegations are found to be true, it will be necessary to have a new voter register to enable people to have confidence in the electoral process,’ the Bishops said.

A news release signed by Most Rev. Joseph Osei-Bonsu, President of the Conference who doubles as Bishop of Konongo-Mampong, stated, ‘To inspire confidence and credibility in the voter register as we prepare for the 2016 general elections, it is crucial that the register should be comprehensive, accurate and continuously updated.’

Additional Element
The Bishops said they believe that the register ‘is not just one additional element to the electoral process,’ adding, ‘it is in fact a crucial factor in the establishment and consolidation of a democratic system of governance.’

According to them, the EC, together with the political parties as well as stakeholders, should jointly guarantee and safeguard the process of registering persons qualified for voting for the 2016 general elections; and urged the EC to endeavour ‘to register all citizens of Ghana who have attained 18 years and above and are of sound mind, resident or ordinarily resident in an electoral area and not prohibited from registering as voters.’

They commended the EC’s call on the parties to submit their proposals on the register and added, ‘It is our hope and prayer that all stakeholders, but most especially political parties that have been contacted to present inputs into the exercise, will be honest and truthful in their contributions in order to enable the EC to conduct a fair, transparent and honest exercise to win the confidence of the Ghanaian public in the register and the electoral process as a whole.’

EC’s Efforts
‘We are aware of some efforts being made by the Electoral Commission to ensure that the voter register is credible enough for the 2016 general elections and pray that these efforts will yield the desired results,’ they underscored.

‘In the process of updating the voter register, the Electoral Commission must not disregard the calls to avoid the registration of minors and non-Ghanaian citizens, to use qualified and adequately trained personnel for the registration process and to ensure transparent identification and verification of eligible and registered voters.’

The Bishops said the government should provide the EC with resources to be able to produce a credible register for election 2016.

They also called for resources for the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) to enable them to educate the citizenry on who qualifies to vote, saying, ‘This education must be sustained throughout the year so that the message sinks into everybody.

‘The Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference believes that the time has come for all of us to work conscientiously to satisfy the need to strike the right balance to ensure integrity of the voter register and the need for flexibility to ensure that the people’s right to register and vote is safeguarded.’

By William Yaw Owusu

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