Limited voter registration: Matters arising
The Electoral Commission (EC) on September 12, 2023, started a limited voter registration exercise with the view to registering about 1.35 million Ghanaians who have turned 18 years and above and other eligible persons who could not register in 2020.
The limited voter registration is due to end on October 2, 2023.
However, prior to the commencement of the exercise, there were disagreements over the use of the district offices of the EC for the exercise.
Some political parties had even gone to court to stop the EC from undertaking the exercise until the parties and the EC had reached an agreement.
Be it as it may, the exercise started amid some challenges.
Key among the challenges were network issues resulting in some centres starting late, non-functional registration equipment, lack of adequate education on the exercise and people travelling long distances to the district offices to register, with some having to return twice to the centres to register.
There have been reports of long queues at some of the centres.
Aside from the technical challenges, there have been some reported attacks on registrants at some of the registration centres notably at the Okaikwei North District office of the EC in the Greater Accra Region on the morning of Sunday, September 17, 2023, where 15 people waiting for their turn to be registered were attacked by unidentified men.
Again, it was reported that violence erupted between some party members of the National Democratic Congress and the New Patriotic Party at the Agona West office of the EC in the Central Region.
These may be a few isolated incidents that have characterised the exercise which must be condemned.
The Daily Graphic believes that the EC could have resolved most of the challenges if it had tested the equipment to assess its efficacy, especially when it was last used in 2020.
It could also have checked the network issues to use the most appropriate internet service to ensure that all the challenges were resolved to ensure a smooth exercise.
The EC could have done itself and, for that matter, a lot of Ghanaians some good by educating the prospective voters that the ongoing limited voter registration exercise was for those interested in taking part in the district level elections on December 19, 2023.
We disagree with the EC on this particular reasoning because participation in the district level elections has always been low and if the EC is limiting the registration to only those interested in taking part in that exercise in December this year, it is not the best.
We believe that it could just have explained that it would roll out another registration exercise next year in electoral areas as explained by its Director of Electoral Services, Dr Serebour Quaicoo.
For us, the EC could have done better by engaging all the stakeholders to fill the gaps and eliminate any bottlenecks before the exercise was rolled out.
The stakeholders could have been the most appropriate vehicle for the mass education of the registration exercise.
It is true that the EC may have reasons for undertaking the exercise in its district offices, but we think that it must rethink its strategies to encourage all qualified persons to register and participate in the election of our political leaders, be it at the local, constituency or national level.
It should not be left in the hands of a privileged few.
To us, every vote counts, and no one should be disenfranchised, hence the need to increase the registration centres in future.
This will reduce the tension and the sleepless nights some people endure to register, as well as reduce the cost of embarking on long journeys to register.
Having gone through this journey of registration of voters in the past 31 years, the Daily Graphic believes that it is time all stakeholders came together to help find an antidote to this perennial problem.
We believe that when the stakeholders, including the EC, the National Identification Authority, political parties and civil society engage meaningfully on the way forward, we would be enhancing our democratic credentials.
It is about time we stopped the acrimonious cycle of accusations, counteraccusations and taking entrenched positions each time, we are undertaking registration exercises or going to conduct elections.
We must work together so that Ghanaians will continue to have confidence in the electoral system in the election of our leaders.
We implore the EC to extend the limited voter registration exercise by some few days to capture many more people.