2023 Limited voters’ registration exercise: Concerns
There has been a lot of commentary on the news conference held by the Electoral Commission (EC) Chair, Jean Mensa on Thursday, August 17, 2023.
I present a point of view as an expert in biometric technology and mass registration exercise, and expose the misinformation spewed.
Since 2020, the EC has not carried out any exercise to register new eligible voters.
That means Ghanaians in the 18 to 21 years bracket have not had the opportunity of getting their names on the voters’ register.
Unfortunately, most of these potential voters stand the risk of being disenfranchised if the EC is not called to order.
According to the EC’s modalities, the registration exercise “will take place in all the 268 district offices of the Commission, including the Guan District.
In other words, each District Office will serve as a Registration Centre”.
A quick scan through the non-urban constituencies in Ghana indicates that there are several places within the constituencies where eligible registrants will have to pay more than GH¢50 using transportation to get to the constituency/district capitals before they can register.
Let me highlight the transportation burden on such eligible registrants in some specific constituencies: Take the case of Karim who lives in Bamboi in the Bole/Bamboi District.
Karim will have to travel two and half hours to Bole and another two and half hours back at the cost of GH¢80 in order to register per the EC’s modalities.
If Karim does not have a Ghana Card, he will have to make this trip many times first to get his Ghana Card and finally travel again for the EC registration Centre.
There is another option for Karim if he has no Ghana Card.
He will have to bear the transport cost of two guarantors in addition to his, a total cost of GH¢240 just to get registered.
This is the story for many other places, hence the disenfranchisement will be widespread if the EC is allowed to go on the path it has decided.
For instance, the Afram Plains has the largest land mass in the Eastern Region, with 2,341.3 square kilometres.
Out of the 31 electoral areas and 127 polling stations, 13 electoral areas and 54 polling stations are located on various islands.
Owing to the topography of the constituency, constituents are compelled to rely on boats, canoes and ferries as the only reliable means of transport.
To this end, one has to travel several kilometres and long hours on water and commute by road to Donkorkrom to access the district capital at the cost of more than GH¢100 per person and more than GH¢300, if guarantors are to be transported.
This journey cannot be done in a day, so accommodation will have to be arranged for the eligible registrant and his/her guarantors.
The 1992 Constitution states the right to vote in Article 42 as follows; “Every citizen of Ghana of 18 years of age or above and of sound mind has the right to vote and is entitled to be registered as a voter for public elections and referenda”.
The eligibility criteria to register and vote is therefore set per Article 42 as follows; To be eligible to register and vote, you must; (1) be a Ghanaian (2) be 18 years and above and (3) be of sound mind.
However, per the modalities set by the EC for the limited registration, if you live in Afram Plains, you have to think of adding transportation, and in some cases accommodation cost, to the eligibility criteria.
This is an unsurmountable roadblock!
Osei Kwame Griffiths
Fmr. Executive Secretary, NIA.