Let’s Scrutinise Voters Register; Governance Experts Advise

Three governance experts and a former presidential aspirant have underscored the need for the Electoral Commission to ensure transparency in the electoral process leading to the 2016 elections.

It is the view of the four that such a move would eliminate any mistrust in the electoral process leading to the 2016 polls.

They are the National Chairman of the National Peace Council (NPC), Most Rev. Professor Emmanuel Kwaku Asante; the Executive Director of the Institute for Democratic Governance (IDEG),  Dr Emmanuel Akwettey; a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Political Science, University of Ghana, Legon, Dr Ransford Gyampoh and an independent presidential candidate in the 2012 elections, Mr Jacob Osei Yeboah, who has also petitioned the NPC to lead discussions for the country to have what he calls National Electronic Data Register (NEDR).

They were speaking to the Daily Graphic in separate telephone interviews on whether there was an imminent need to overhaul the voters register and the most efficient way to clean up the register, with less than two years to go for the 2016 elections. Voters Register

In 2012, the national census estimated Ghana’s total population, including foreigners, to be 24,965,816. That year, a new electoral list was compiled by the EC, capturing for the first time biometric data. A toltal of 14,031,763 people (or names) were registered to vote in the 2012 general election, representing 56.2 per cent. Credibility of Voters Register

There is the issue of the integrity of the voters register where there are many calls, real or perceived, from political and non-partisan groups for an early cleansing of the register for the 2016 elections.

This call is also predicated on the Supreme Court ruling on the 2012 Election Petition.

It has further emerged that the existing voters register had allowed carriers of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) card among other identification cards to register, but this was to be later annulled by the Supreme Court. Transparency in process

The Chairman of the NPC, Rev. Emmanuel Asante, said in the light of these, it would be good for the EC to listen to dissenting voices and through workings with the Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC) and all political parties forge a consensus before the 2016 polls.

He noted that even though the Constitution gave the right to the EC to independently organise elections in the country,  it would not be out of place if the commission gave a listening ear to other constructive views.

He said the EC should look at the Supreme Court recommendations and try to eliminate anything that would spark off confusion in the 2016 polls. Independent assessment of register

The Executive Director of IDEG, Dr Akwettey, also underscored the need for an independent assessment of the current voters register.

‘We must get qualified people from the private sector, academia and a bio data expert either locally or internationally to independently assess the country’s database of the voters register,’ he asserted.

‘The problem is that there was the assumption that the database was not credible and for that matter we thought the biometric data we used in 2012 had a higher credibility and was, therefore, good but it also landed us at the Supreme Court,’ he recalled.

In the view of Dr Akwetey, ‘It is only an independent assessment of the current database that will put the matter to rest once and for all.’

‘If the independent committee says there is a problem or not, that will be the only basis to keep or  change the voters register,’ he pointed out.

He, however, insisted that the whole process must be done dispassionately because it all involves the taxpayers’ money.

It was his belief that the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) could facilitate such a committee to undertake the independent assessment of the register.

He also said the political parties could at best be considered as observers to the committee’s work.

‘In that process, we can put an end to the problem of mistrust, where for instance in the 2012 elections the New Patriotic Party (NPP) said the register was not credible and in the 2008 elections, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) also questioned the credibility of the register, ‘ he said.

He also advised the EC to quickly work on the recommendation the Supreme Court gave in 2013  in order not to create any conditions for further wranglings. Heal mistrust

Dr Ransford Gyampoh for his part said that given the challenges after the 2012 elections and the Supreme Court ruling in 2013, ‘we must work to heal the mistrust between the political parties and the Electoral Commission.’

According to Dr Gyampoh, all stakeholders must get involved to do all that is necessary to put trust and confidence in the system.

He said it was regrettable that many Ghanaians and political parties went to sleep when elections were over and engaged in low political participation.

As a nation, Dr Gyampoh pointed out, ‘We are fond of sitting and waiting for the last minute or the next election before we participate actively in the electoral process.’  He further advised, ‘Let us not sit down.’

He recalled that the EC in 2013 called on Ghanaians to submit proposals for electoral reforms.

‘I wish that all and sundry will direct their proposals to the EC for consideration,’ Dr Gyampoh, who is also a member of the Electoral Reform Committee, advised. National Electronic Data Register

Mr Jacob Osei Yeboah also pointed out that the solution was far bigger than just cleansing the voters register.

In his petition to the NPC, he said, ‘the solution lay with developing a National Electronic Data Register (NEDR) which tracks a person’s life cycle through birth, education, religion, profession, business, property and death. ‘

He said the EC, Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, the National Development Planning Commission, Ghana Statistical Service, Birth and Death Registry, etc. were key ministries and agencies that could also benefit from NEDR as a planning tool.

‘The EC will only need to access such a register which can extrapolate the population that will be 18 years and above in each polling station and plan budgetary and logistical allocations for each election,’ he explained.

Furthermore, he said that could prevent perpetual pitfalls during registrations by EC for subsequent election years.

Additionally, he noted that the opening and closing of the voters register seemed like the norm, but it was archaic and hugely wasteful.

‘Ghana can learn from Germany that has developed and mastered the NEDR for its socio-economic development. In Ghana, the NEDR is needed for Ghana’s next crucial election. This will be a great panacea and will build trust in EC’s handling of our elections,’ he argued. Dr Afari Gyan

When contacted on telephone, the EC Chairman, Dr Afari Gyan, disclosed that the commission was always looking at the voters register to ensure that it was credible.

He, however, said that he did not understand what Mr Osei Yeboah was proposing but said it could be interrogated.

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