A new Constitutional Instrument (C.I.) drafted by the Electoral Commission (EC), titled: Public Elections (Registration of Voters) Regulations 2021, is currently before Parliament.
If it matures after the stipulated 21 days, it will become law, which is expected to regulate continuous voter registration in the country.
But while the process to get the new C.I. passed is ongoing, it is already generating heated debate. One major concern is the section of the C.I. that seeks to make the Ghana Card the sole form of identification for eligible voters who want to get onto the electoral roll.
Recently, in an exclusive statement to the Daily Graphic, a former Chairman of the EC, Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, raised some concerns which had to do with the use of the Ghana Card as the only source document for continuous voter registration.
Dr Afari-Gyan, the longest-serving chairperson of the EC in the history of the country, argued that with many Ghanaians finding it difficult to get their Ghana cards, making the card the only form of identification for voter registration was against electoral inclusivity, fairness and justice.
"Ghanaian citizens don’t lose their citizenship if they are 18 years or older but do not have the Ghana Card. So the moot question is: why make the Ghana Card the only means of identification for purposes of establishing eligibility to register to vote?” he asked, and advised the EC to take a careful look at its insistence on the Ghana Card because in spite of its crucial role in elections, the EC was not the decider of elections; it was rather the electorate.
“The electorate are the kingmakers. So a basic responsibility of any electoral commission is to facilitate the realisation of the people's right to register as voters, and not obstruct that right by demanding, for registration purposes, documents that are not easily accessible to the people,” he said.
NDC, CPP, PPP
Much earlier, the National Democratic Congress had expressed reservations about the decision by the EC to use the Ghana Card as the only source document.
The Convention People’s Party and the Progressive People’s Party are also opposed to the decision, contending that it will disenfranchise many Ghanaians because the process for getting the Ghana Card is fraught with problems.
PNC, LPG, GCPP
Meanwhile, the People' s National Convention (PNC), the Great Consolidated Popular Party (GCPP) and the Liberal Party of Ghana (LPG) support the use of the Ghana Card as the sole source document for the continuous voter registration.
Their argument is that the Ghana Card will eliminate the incidence of minors and foreigners who were not eligible to vote in the 2024 general election getting onto the electoral roll.
The EC, through its Deputy Chairman, Dr Eric Bossman Asare, has debunked the assertions that the use of the Ghana Card as the sole identification document for the registration of new voters will disenfranchise eligible voters.
It said the registration process would be continuous and should, therefore, not cause any harm. The EC insisted that the new C.I. was only meant to regulate continuous registration, with the Ghana Card as the source document.
With these varied opinions among stakeholders in the country's electoral architecture, there is the need for the EC to deepen engagement with all stakeholders, with the view to fine-tuning the process to make it acceptable to all interested parties.
Dr Afari-Gyan's concern that no election management body can take the right of the citizenry to register and vote to decide who should govern must inform the decision of the EC in formulating its policies, which must be in the interest of the people.
Increase trust level
The EC must endeavour to take into consideration the various concerns raised to increase the level of trust and confidence in the process ahead of the 2024 general election.
With these diverse views on the usage of the Ghana Card as the sole identification document for the registration of new voters, it will not be out of place for the EC to look at the merits and demerits of the concerns raised to make the new C.I. acceptable to all to maintain the trust and confidence in our electoral arrangement.
Without any doubt, the 2024 elections will be charged, as it had been in all the eight elections under the Fourth Republic.
The stakes obviously will be so high and everything must be done right from day one to ensure free, fair, transparent and smooth elections whose outcome will be acceptable to all groupings in the electoral process.
Many a time, CIs are laid before Parliament with few of the citizenry knowing about them, and now that some groupings are raising concerns, it will be better for all of us to be interested in the new C.I., so that legitimate concerns raised can be considered and factored into the new instrument before it becomes law.
EC needs support
At this stage, the EC also needs our collective support. It is the civic duty of all of us to support the EC to discharge its constitutional mandate effectively and efficiently. All things being equal, the ninth election in December 2024 should be the most peaceful, acceptable trouble-free election, having learnt lessons from the past elections 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012, 2016 and 2020.
It will be a big shame and disgrace to the country to go into Election 2024 with mistrust, acrimony, suspicion and needless tension, and, therefore, while the EC must listen to those with divergent interests and begin to engage more, it is equally important for all related stakeholders to trust and support the EC with good intentions and ideas.
So far, the EC, notwithstanding the challenges, has managed to steer the election management process quite well to the satisfaction of many in the global community. This can, however, be improved upon to even make the process better. This is the task that lies ahead of the EC.