EC clarifies publication of voters register

BY: Enoch Darfah Frimpong
Mrs Jean Mensa - Chairperson of EC
Mrs Jean Mensa - Chairperson of EC

The Electoral Commission (EC) has justified the decision to publish the voters register on google drive.

The EC is enjoined by law to make public, details of the voters on the register before every election.

The publication of the full 2020 voters register in the Cloud, with links to the website of the Electoral Commission, ahead of the December 7 polls has generated public discussion with some arguing that it breaches the data protection law.

Some members of the public have expressed concern over the potential insecurity the publication of voters’ details could entail.

But speaking at a training workshop for journalists, organised by the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) on Tuesday, [November 24, 2020], the Chairperson of the EC, Mrs Jean Mensa said the register which has since been removed will be republished after the system has been embedded with enhanced security features.

"...the register that was put out, we are enjoined by law to publish the voters register. Indeed, C.I. 127 requires that the provisional voters register is published on our website," Mrs Mensa said.

"That same law says that the final register is published in a manner which the Commission deems fit and we are well aware that the ID Card has come to be used for other activities. But from the Commission's point of view, that card is provided for voting purposes only and in this era of transparency and openness, the Commission believes that it is important to publish the register, and that is why the register was published to enable citizens check their details."

Read also: Discussions on handling voters’ data underway — Patricia Adusei-Poku

The Chairperson of the EC added:

"Once it was published, there were some issues with the functionality with the format in which it had been put there, so the I.T. was called to include and introduce more systems into it to make it more functional. We intend to upload it in the next few days," Mrs Mensa said.

Data Protection Agency

The Data Protection Agency (DPA) has also already begun discussions with the Electoral Commission on how to ensure transparency and fairness in the handling of the personal data of registered voters.

The Director-General of the DPA, Ms Patricia Adusei-Poku, who disclosed this in an interview with the Daily Graphic on Monday, said the move was to establish the extent of voter information the EC could publish.

The engagement would also help to earmark information that could be shared publicly without infringing on privacy and confidentiality as the country’s laws permitted.

The move by the DPA follows public concerns over the EC’s decision to publish the full 2020 voters register in the Cloud, with links on its website, ahead of the December 7 polls.

Legality versus privacy

Ms Adusei-Poku told the Daily Graphic that although the EC might have legal backing to publish the voters register, there was the need to consider individuals’ right to privacy in doing so.

“I assume that the EC has an enabling law that allows it to work in certain ways, possibly publishing the electoral register. Many countries have their electoral registers published, so it is not unusual.

However, beyond the delivery of the legal mandate, even if there is a law that allows you to do what you have done, you should look at other ways of improving transparency and fairness in the processing of personal data,” she said.

She said the two bodies would collaborate and work together to avert any genuine concerns, instead of operating in silos.

“The situation where we work in silos and just focus on our mandate should be looked at. We need to take into account other complementary and relevant laws in the delivery of our institutional mandate,” she said.

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Listen to Mrs Jean Mensa in the audio attached below