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New Voter Register By EC Is Long Overdue

Feature Article New Voter Register By EC Is Long Overdue
JUN 12, 2020 LISTEN

The Supreme Court ruling in 2013 instructed the Electoral Commission of Ghana (EC) to reform the electoral process, high on the reform agenda was the voter register. However, the EC failed to heed to the Supreme Court recommendations.

The Committee itself admitted that there was a problem with the credibility of the voter register and that the Biometric Verification System had problems. There were breakdowns of the system and hacking during the 2016 elections.

This has put our elections on dangerous footings till today. The NPP petitioned the EC amidst demonstrations with fatal consequences, yet the EC closed its eyes. It was a miracle that the 2016 elections was successful.

The reputation of the chairman of the Electoral Commission of Ghana (EC) and the courage demonstrated in applying the law impartially has contributed to the confidence the Ghanaians have in the ability of the Commission to discharge its function. The EC is widely seen as a buffer zone between the various political protagonists.

Article 46 of the 1992 Constitution holds that the Commission is not subject to any authority in performing its functions, the independence of the Commission is guaranteed by the 1992 constitution. Even though the Commission should have regular consultations with the political parties and other stakeholders, the Commission is mandated not to give in to any pressure.

The Chairperson of the Commission is supposed to be firm in its decisions, and should not easily give up to the wishes of stake holders under pressure. The firm decisions made by Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, the chairman of the Commission from 1993-2015, and Mrs Charlotte Osei, the chairwoman from June 2015 – June 2018, have given great reputation and trust to the Commission over these years.

In the run up to 2012 elections, some skeptics challenged the ECG on its creation of 45 additional constituencies. The matter went to the Supreme Court and the ECG won, under the interpretation of the Act 451 which set it up and Acts 47 and 51 of the 1992 Constitution.

After the December 2012 elections, there was the historic election petition process at the nation's Supreme Court that challenged the declaration of the winner as the duly elected presidential candidate. Even though the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the declared winner, it made several recommendations that paved the way for numerous interventions aimed at putting together proposals for electoral reform to fine-tune Ghana's electoral processes.

Several such reform proposals were submitted to the Electoral Commission by the end of 2013. Nevertheless, these were not implemented to guide the 2016 general elections. The successful conduct of the 2016 elections was therefore described as a “miracle.”

Among other reforms ordered under the Supreme Court ruling by Justice William Atugubah (“Justice Atuguba's judgement on the Election Petition,” 4 September 2013) were the streamlining of the Biometric Device System to avoid breakdowns and stress on the electorate involved in an adjournment of the poll; and invalidating wholesale votes for insignificant excess numbers not the best application of the administrative principle of the proportionality test.

The only proposal that was rejected by the Electoral Commission was the “no verification, no vote principle” (EC 2015). In the opinion of the EC, it would be unfair to turn back a voter if machines are unable to determine who is eligible to vote. The commission indeed recognised that the right of a citizen to vote is fundamental and guaranteed by the 1992 constitution.

In its view, it has an inherent mandate to ensure that every eligible voter gets the opportunity to vote. The commission argued that in the absence of the biometric verification device, or when it malfunctions, there should be other physical or manual means of verifying voters in order not to disenfranchise Ghanaians.

However, there were several issues that created doubts in the minds of many Ghanaians regarding the commission's preparedness for the task ahead. For instance, in the wake of several calls for electoral reform, the commission was caught in a quagmire of justifying the need to design a new logo.

There were unresolved issues with the voters’ register that led to the fear that many people who used the national health insurance identity card to register were not given ample time to re-register in accordance with the Supreme Court ruling. Again, there was no clarity regarding how the register was going to be pruned to rid it of the names that were not supposed to be on it.

Furthermore, there was a new commission chairperson, who was perceived as inexperienced. Also, the application of the electoral rules by the commission was perceived to have favoured the ruling party. Even though the main opposition party was cleared to contest the election, there were perceptions of executive and partisan manipulation on the part of the commission.

Instead of focusing on the implementation of the proposals to clean the voter register, improve the biometric verification devices for voter registration and exhibition, extend the period of notice for voter registration, reduce the number of voters per polling station and the concentrate on the upcoming elections in 2016, the commission launched a broader Strategic Plan (2016–2020) to become the benchmark in Africa for conducting “independent, trusted, world-class democratic elections for citizens and candidates alike.”

A Commission that sought to become a benchmark in Africa for conducting “independent, trusted, world-class democratic elections for citizens and candidates alike”, had no credible voter registry and credible means of registering voters. The ECG did not consider its pressing homework, but engaged and spent huge sums of its funds on proposals that were less necessary.

One of the key proposals under the plan was to strengthen the EC's relations with key stakeholders and improve the flow of communications between them. In this regard, the EC was able to bring together several players and actors with differing interests and perspectives (EC; IPAC; candidates; media; voters; judiciary; security agencies; security task forces at the national, regional, and district levels; election observers; civil society organisations; development partners) to discuss issues relating to elections in Ghana and the role of the stakeholders.

However, the launch of the plan was a waste of time as it dealt with overarching issues rather than focusing on the pressing demand for vigorous electoral reform and the implementation of the specific proposals from the Electoral Reform Committee.

The state of electoral reform in Ghana appeared to be in limbo, as the key officials of the commission battled serious diversionary issues with respect to their integrity and continued stay in office as election management officials. Indeed, following the 2016 elections, there were petitions and counter-petitions to remove all three executive officers of the commission from office over allegations of corruption, malfeasance, in-fighting among the key officials, and abuse of office.

In an article published in December 2017 by Ransford Edward Van Gyampo, a member of the Electoral Reform Committee from the civil society groups that submitted proposals for electoral reform to the Electoral Commission, the Commission invited proposals for electoral reforms from 38 key stakeholders including political parties, faith-based organisations, professional bodies, and civil society organisations.

The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), for example, under the aegis of the Ghana Political Parties Program (GPPP), held a series of workshops to review the electoral processes. This culminated in the submission of 25 proposals for electoral reform to the EC on 20 November 2013. Subsequently, in January 2015, the EC inaugurated the 10-member Electoral Reforms Committee (ERC) to examine the proposals for electoral reform and advise the commission on the implementation of the proposals. The committee – which comprised representatives of political parties, of the EC, and of civil society organisations – submitted its report containing 41 proposals for electoral reform to the commission in April 2015

Moves towards electoral reform hit a snag in view of challenges within the EC itself at the time. The proposals that were submitted by the ERC could not be implemented, the changes in administrative practices and concrete actions that were discussed among the directors were pushed aside during the struggles among the commissioners and were not implemented.

The success of electoral reform, even though it must be a shared responsibility, must be the concern of the commission more than any other stakeholder. In this regard, the EC may work with the other institutions, but to ensure that all proposals are implemented lies solely on the commission. The roles played by Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC), Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), Ghana Political Parties Program (GPPP) and other stakeholders are very important, but their decisions are not mandatory to the work of the EC.

In the run up to the 2016 elections, a handful of political parties sued the ECG for disqualifying their would-be candidates from running for the presidency on December 7 elections. The Commission made the decision after it detected errors in the nomination forms handed in by the candidates. This legal action raised fears that the elections might have to be postponed.

The ECG filed a petition to the Supreme Court to challenge a ruling faulting it for not giving aggrieved candidates enough time to correct the alleged errors on their application forms. Many feared that the sum of legal battles would disrupt the 2016 election calendar.

Ghanaian voters were doubtful that there could be a peaceful,elections in the year. "Looking at the rate at which the cases are coming, I am beginning to worry about the process that the Electoral Commission has to put together before the elections," an Accra resident told DW. Another resident also said, “It won't surprise me if the court decides to postpone the elections to allow it to address all the cases against the Electoral Commission."

Some political analysts suggested to the commission to try to reach an out-of-court settlement with the concerned candidates: "Assuming that we are not able to hold elections on December 7 because of the court cases, what happens?" Kwesi Jonah, a political analyst asked. Jonah would like Ghana to maintain its reputation as a peaceful country with a tradition of free, fair and transparent elections.

The concerns of Ghanaians were that the December 7 2016 elections would be marred with the court case and ensuing disappointments of many voters.

The EC’s disqualifications left voters with only four presidential candidates to choose from. There were two favorites: the then President John Mahama of the National Democratic Congress, who was running for a second and final term, and his main rival, the opposition leader Nana Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party. Their contest was expected to be very tight at the time.

The EC did not expect the court's actions to disrupt the polls. Chairperson Charlotte Osei announced that almost 90 percent of preparations for the elections had been completed. "You cannot only look at the case from the perspective of those whose nominations were not accepted. You also have to look at the rights of those who met the requirements within the nomination period. So we have to be very balanced and we have to follow the law," Osei said.

The Commission in 2016 admitted that the voter register was blotted, there were people who used national health insurance cards to register, which is not a proper proof of a Ghanaian, because foreigners can also join the national health insurance.

In the Supreme Court's ruling in 2016, it was ordered that those who used the national insurance cards as identity should be removed from the register. The Commissioner, Ms. Charlotte Osei promised to audit the register and remove the names of those who used national health insurance cards according to the Supreme Court ruling.

In July 2017, during the trial of Ms Osei, the former EC chairman by a committee set up by the Chief Justice, Justice Sophia Akuffo to investigate complaints and corruption allegations levelled against her, in which she accused of breaching procurement laws in awarding several contracts, prior to 2016 Ghana elections, she alleged that one of her deputies, the Deputy Chair of Operations, Amadu Sulley, has persistently effected illegal vote transfers from his office on the Voter management system.

Charlotte Osei, who believed this was in clear breach of the law and operational policies of the Commission insisted such actions had “major implications for the integrity of the work of the Commission and constitutes abuse of office.” Mrs. Osei made this revelation in her response to the petition filed by the employees of EC that was calling for her removal at the time.

Her response which was filed by her Lawyer, Thadeaus Sory also made other damning allegations against Mr. Sulley including a claim that the latter illegally bagged 6 million from political parties. “The Deputy Chair Operations collected funds of six million Ghana cedis in cash from political parties for the organization of party primaries without recourse to the structures of the Commission, without the involvement of the finance department of the Commission.” She alleged.

“Political party primaries were treated as a private commercial project by the Deputy Chair Operation with funds paid directly into the personal accounts of key staff for functions to be performed for party primaries” She vowed to order a full scale investigation into the conduct of Mr. Sulley and other Commissioners believed to be flouting rules governing the Commission.

This, according to the EC Chairperson was “illegal, criminal and a breach of the policies of the Commission and the laws of Ghana.”

The Deputy Chair Operations also persistently effected illegal vote transfers from his office on the Voter management System in clear breach of the law and operational policies of the Commission. Such actions had major implications for the integrity of the work of the Commission and constitute abuse of office.

These allegations undermine and cast dark shadows on the voter register system we have in Ghana now.

One worrying complain concerning the old voter system is ECG’s claim that it does not have the password of the old register system. The password is still under the control of the foreign company who were contracted by the government to set up the system. The company is not willing to train EC staffs to operate and control the system by itself. That means, they can easily manipulate the system to the advantage of any party at any time.

During the time of the correlation of the 2016 election at the election control center, the ex-chair Charlotte Osei complained of tampering. A BBC News headline on December 8, 2016 read, “Ghana election commission website hit by cyber attack”. The news claimed that hackers had targeted the website of Ghana's electoral commission as votes were counted after tightly contested elections.

The commission said later that the website was up again, and that an attempt to put up "fake results" failed. In a tweet, it urged people to ignore the "fake results" circulating on social media. “We deplore the attempt to hack the EC's website. Please respect the integrity and independence of the EC," it said in a tweet.

The website was offline for about four hours, but the commission had not put up results overnight so there was no chance of any tampering, a spokesman told the BBC.

The New Patriotic Party (NPP) raised arguments against the credibility of the voter register following the Supreme Court ruling in 2012 after rejection of the election results and suing the EC. The NPP challenged the results of Ghana’s 2012 presidential ballot in court, saying Mahama had benefited from illegitimate ballots. The court upheld Mahama’s win after eight months of legal wrangling. However, the Supremacy Court punched various holes in the voter register and ordered the EC to correct them.

But the EC failed to make the corrections. In August 2015, the NPP raised accusation against the EC's disobedience to the Supreme Court ruling, claiming that the voters’ register was incurably flawed and could not be relied on for the 2016 elections. The NPP vice presidential candidate Mahamudu Bawumia said in a news conference, “This morning we presented our arguments and evidence on this matter to the electoral commission.”

“The evidence is damning and shows that Ghana’s voters register has been compromised,” he said. The new register was expected to be created by June 2016 and be independently audited by an internationally reputable firm ahead of December 7 election, Bawumia added.

But a five-member committee set up by the ECG to look into the calls for a new voters’ register rejected the evidence provided by the NPP citing it as unconvincing.

Ms. Charlotte Osei was of the view that the NPP’s method for compiling a new voter’s register would require that Ghanaians show proof of citizenship using either a passport, a driver’s license or a National ID card.

“How many Ghanaians do you think have these? five million, six million?...I doubt if you can get even 10million” Charlotte argued.

“…for those who do not have a passport, driver’s license or a National ID card how are they going to be identified as a Ghanaian?” she wondered.

Old voter ID cards would be unacceptable and the Supreme Court had already barred the use of them and National Health Insurance cards as proof of Ghanaian citizenship. But Charlotte Osei explained that the commission could also not use the accepted practice of two Ghanaians testifying to the citizenship of a person who did not have any of the three IDs.

“This is because the citizenship of the two can also not be proven with their old voter ID cards”, Charlotte Osei said, explaining the limitations imposed by the NPP method.

“We are going to end up with a register that is very elitist and excludes the large majority of citizens. That is not our idea of inclusive democracy and that is not where we think we should be going”, she insisted. But Ms Charlotte Osei could not solve the issue of blotting voter register. The problem of flaws remained with the all important component of Ghana’s democratic process; credible voter register.

The Electoral Commission maintained that the absence of a National Identification System was forcing Ghanaians to get a credible voter’s ID card. The old voter ID card therefore remained the only means and easiest method of voter identification despite the Supreme Court ruling of its flaws and clear evidence of its ineligibility.

In 2015, the EC gave an intangible excuse that “a new voter’s ID will worsen fears expressed by political parties that there are minors and foreigners on the electoral roll because everybody will rush to obtain one even if they are not eligible to vote”.

The Chairperson of the Electoral Commission Mrs. Charlotte Osei said that Ghana would end up with a “very elitist” voter’s register if the Commission gave in to the methods suggested by the opposition New Patriotic Party.

She explained that the commission had resolved to audit the voters' register instead of giving in to the demand by the NPP for a new register. The audit included excluding all people who registered using natural insurance cards as identification and other measures ordered by the Supreme Court in 2012. However, the EC failed to do the auditing.

The issue of Ghanaian identity has been a headache since independence. No go enemies had taken the matter as a national priority from the era of the first president until recently. In countries such as Togo, Kenya and South Africa, citizens have a National ID and therefore do not need a voter ID card to determine citizenship. This was not the case in Ghana.

The NPP government’s prior agendum, in its first term in office in 2017 was to implement the Ghana National Identification. As at June 2020, the National Identification Authority (NIA) has registered and issued National ID cards to a total of eleven million Ghanaians, who are also eligible voters.

This has eased the identification qualification of Ghanaians. With the addition of those who have Ghanaian passports, the number of voters who would need identification by the testimony of two Ghanaians to citizenry without national card and passport would be very little.

Expected eligible voters for 2020: elections are around 17 million. The number of eligible voters had increased steadily. In 2000, the number were 10,698,652), 2004 (10,354,970), 2008 (12,472,758), 2012 (14,158,890) and 2016 (15,712,499). 2020 is expected to see an increase of nearly 2 million eligible voters, bringing the total eligible voters for 2020 elections to 17 million. With eleven million of them now having Ghana national ID, and with those who have no national ID yet, but Ghana passport, those to be identified by two Ghanaians would not be expected to be in a range of less than 3 million.

This would aid EC’s compilation of credible voter registration and ease the identification headache of many Ghanaians. The EC has a more credible way to identify and register eligible voters than ever before in the history of the electoral registration exercise. From 1993 till today, the three IDs used to register voters had been a passport, a driver’s license, national health Insurance card, which was described as a National ID card.

Apart from the passport, which provides a certain level of Ghanaian identity security, but not hundred percent since there were allegations that some foreigners in the country paid monies to acquire them, none of the identification materials were genuine proofs of Ghanaian identity. Driver’s license can be acquired by any foreigner residing in Ghana.

No Ghanaian was issued a credible National Identification card until recently. So the old voter registration is not a credible system to determine fair and flawless elections in Ghana. It cannot be acceptable as a credible voter register. The main identification materials, which were Ghana passport, a driver’s license and a national health insurance card, were not sure materials to identify a Ghanaian.

Based on these arguments, the only way to have a credible voter register in the country to ensure fair and flawless elections is a new voter register. The new voter register this round would be the most credible and reliable one than all the registers since 1993.

The use of the old voter cards as identity for the registration of a new voter card would mean bringing in the flaws of the old system ams should not be allowed. If the old registration cards are allowed, how then would the EC ensure the exclusion of those who used the national health insurance cards and those who were registered by the EC director illegally as Ms Osei claimed?

In 2012, the EC established a biometric system of registration for the electoral register prior to the 2012 presidential and parliamentary elections to prevent double registration and to eliminate ghost names in the old register. In preparation towards the 2020 elections, 257 of the 260 offices all over the country were linked on the internet. MTN won the bid to provide the internet network and Persol Systems, the bid to build the Data Center.

The function of the EC are laid out in Article 45 of the 1992 Constitution, namely:

  • to compile the register of voters and revise it as such periods as may be determined by law;
  • to undertake the delimitation of constituencies for both national and local government elections;
  • to conduct and supervise all public elections and referenda;
  • to educate the people on the electoral process and its purpose;
  • to undertake programmes for the expansion of the registration of voters (see Voter registration and voters' rolls); and
  • to perform such other functions as may be prescribed by law, such as election period and dates, overseeing candidates nominations and accrediting and election observation missions.

The Electoral Commission Act of 1993, added the following functions:

  • to undertake the preparation of voter identity cards; and
  • to store properly election material.

REGULATIONS
The EC has the power to make regulations for the effective performance of its functions by the issue of constitutional instruments (C.Is), especially for the execution of the functions described in 1992 Constitution, Article 55). The constitution allows the EC to issue C.Is as it deemed. The EC is further empowered y the CIs to implement any reform that it sees necessary for the credibility and advancement of electoral process in Ghana.

Court ruling in 2013 instructed the Electoral Commission of Ghana (EC) to reform the electoral process, high on the reform agenda was the voter register. However, the EC failed to heed to the Supreme Court recommendations.

The EC itself admitted that there was a problem with the credible of the voter register and that the Biometric Verification System had problems. There were breakdown of the system and hacking during 2016 elections.

This has put our elections on dangerous footings till today. The NPP petitioned the EC amidst demonstrations with fatal consequences, yet the EC closed its eyes. It was a miracle that the 2016 elections was successful. The reputation of the chairman of the Electoral Commission of Ghana (EC) and the courage demonstrated in applying the law impartially has contributed to the confidence the Ghanaians have in the ability of the Commission to discharge its function. The EC is widely seen as a buffer zone between the various political protagonists.

Article 46 of the 1992 Constitution holds that the Commission is not subject to any authority in performing its functions, the independence of the Commission is guaranteed by the 1992 constitution. Even though the Commission should have regular consultations with the political parties and other stakeholders, the Commission is mandated not to give in to any pressure.

The Chairperson of the Commission is supposed to be firm in its decisions, and should not easily give up to the wishes of stake holders under pressure. The firm decisions made by Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, the chairman of the Commission from 1993-2015, and Mrs Charlotte Osei, the chairwoman from June 2015 – June 2018, have given great reputation and trust to the Commission over these years.

In the run up to 2012 elections, some skeptics challenged the ECG on its creation of 45 additional constituencies. The matter went to the Supreme Court and the ECG won, under the interpretation of the Act 451 which set it up and Acts 47 and 51 of the 1992 Constitution.

After the December 2012 elections, there was the historic election petition process at the nation's Supreme Court that challenged the declaration of the winner as the duly elected presidential candidate. Even though the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the declared winner, it made several recommendations that paved the way for numerous interventions aimed at putting together proposals for electoral reform to fine-tune Ghana's electoral processes.

Several such reform proposals were submitted to the Electoral Commission by the end of 2013. Nevertheless, these were not implemented to guide the 2016 general elections. The successful conduct of the 2016 elections was therefore described as a “miracle.”

Among other reforms ordered under the Supreme Court ruling by Justice William Atugubah (“Justice Atuguba's judgement on the Election Petition,” 4 September 2013) were the streamlining of the Biometric Device System to avoid breakdowns and stress on the electorate involved in an adjournment of the poll; and invalidating wholesale votes for insignificant excess numbers not the best application of the administrative principle of the proportionality test.

The only proposal that was rejected by the Electoral Commission was the “no verification, no vote principle” (EC 2015). In the opinion of the EC, it would be unfair to turn back a voter if machines are unable to determine who is eligible to vote. The commission indeed recognised that the right of a citizen to vote is fundamental and guaranteed by the 1992 constitution.

In its view, it has an inherent mandate to ensure that every eligible voter gets the opportunity to vote. The commission argued that in the absence of the biometric verification device, or when it malfunctions, there should be other physical or manual means of verifying voters in order not to disenfranchise Ghanaians.

However, there were several issues that created doubts in the minds of many Ghanaians regarding the commission's preparedness for the task ahead. For instance, in the wake of several calls for electoral reform, the commission was caught in a quagmire of justifying the need to design a new logo.

There were unresolved issues with the voters’ register that led to the fear that many people who used the national health insurance identity card to register were not given ample time to re-register in accordance with the Supreme Court ruling. Again, there was no clarity regarding how the register was going to be pruned to rid it of the names that were not supposed to be on it.

Furthermore, there was a new commission chairperson, who was perceived as inexperienced. Also, the application of the electoral rules by the commission was perceived to have favoured the ruling party. Even though the main opposition party was cleared to contest the election, there were perceptions of executive and partisan manipulation on the part of the commission.

Instead of focusing on the implementation of the proposals to clean the voter register, improve the biometric verification devices for voter registration and exhibition, extend the period of notice for voter registration, reduce the number of voters per polling station and the concentrate on the upcoming elections in 2016, the commission launched a broader Strategic Plan (2016–2020) to become the benchmark in Africa for conducting “independent, trusted, world-class democratic elections for citizens and candidates alike.”

A Commission that sought to become a benchmark in Africa for conducting “independent, trusted, world-class democratic elections for citizens and candidates alike”, but had no credible voter registry and credible means of registering voters. The ECG did not consider its pressing homework, but engaged and spent huge sums of its funds on proposals that were less necessary.

One of the key proposals under the plan was to strengthen the EC's relations with key stakeholders and improve the flow of communications between them. In this regard, the EC was able to bring together several players and actors with differing interests and perspectives (EC; IPAC; candidates; media; voters; judiciary; security agencies; security task forces at the national, regional, and district levels; election observers; civil society organisations; development partners) to discuss issues relating to elections in Ghana and the role of the stakeholders.

However, the launch of the plan was a waste of time as it dealt with overarching issues rather than focusing on the pressing demand for vigorous electoral reform and the implementation of the specific proposals from the Electoral Reform Committee.

The state of electoral reform in Ghana appeared to be in limbo, as the key officials of the commission battled serious diversionary issues with respect to their integrity and continued stay in office as election management officials. Indeed, following the 2016 elections, there were petitions and counter-petitions to remove all three executive officers of the commission from office over allegations of corruption, malfeasance, in-fighting among the key officials, and abuse of office.

In an article published in December 2017 by Ransford Edward Van Gyampo, a member of the Electoral Reform Committee from the civil society groups that submitted proposals for electoral reform to the Electoral Commission, the Commission invited proposals for electoral reforms from 38 key stakeholders including political parties, faith-based organisations, professional bodies, and civil society organisations.

The IEA, for example, under the aegis of the GPPP, held a series of workshops to review the electoral processes. This culminated in the submission of 25 proposals for electoral reform to the EC on 20 November 2013.5 Subsequently, in January 2015, the EC inaugurated the 10-member Electoral Reforms Committee (ERC) to examine the proposals for electoral reform and advise the commission on the implementation of the proposals. The committee – which comprised representatives of political parties, of the EC, and of civil society organisations – submitted its report containing 41 proposals for electoral reform to the commission in April 2015

Moves towards electoral reform hit a snag in view of challenges within the EC itself at the time. The proposals that were submitted by the ERC could not be implemented, the changes in administrative practices and concrete actions that were discussed among the directors were pushed aside during the struggles among the commissioners and were not implemented.

The success of electoral reform, even though it must be a shared responsibility, must be the concern of the commission more than any other stakeholder. In this regard, the EC May work with the other institutions, but to ensure that all proposals are implemented lies solely on the commission. The roles played by Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC), Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), Ghana Political Parties Program (GPPP) and other stakeholders are very important, but their decisions are not mandatory to the work of the EC.

In the run up to the 2016 elections, a handful of political parties sued the ECG for disqualifying their would-be candidates from running for the presidency on December 7 elections. The Commission made the decision after it detected errors in the nomination forms handed in by the candidates. This legal action raised fears that the elections might have to be postponed.

The ECG filed a petition to the Supreme Court to challenge a ruling faulting it for not giving aggrieved candidates enough time to correct the alleged errors on their application forms. Many feared that the sum of legal battles would disrupt the 2016 election calendar.

Ghanaian voters were doubtful that there could be a peaceful,elections in the year. "Looking at the rate at which the cases are coming, I am beginning to worry about the process that the Electoral Commission has to put together before the elections," an Accra resident told DW. Another resident also said, “It won't surprise me if the court decides to postpone the elections to allow it to address all the cases against the Electoral Commission."

Some political analysts suggested to the commission to try to reach an out-of-court settlement with the concerned candidates: "Assuming that we are not able to hold elections on December 7 because of the court cases, what happens?" Kwesi Jonah, a political analyst asked. Jonah would like Ghana to maintain its reputation as a peaceful country with a tradition of free, fair and transparent elections.

The concerns of Ghanaians were that the December 7 2016 elections would be marred with the court case and ensuing disappointments of many voters.

The EC’s disqualifications left voters with only four presidential candidates to choose from. There were two favorites: the then President John Mahama of the National Democratic Congress, who was running for a second and final term, and his main rival, the opposition leader Nana Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party. Their contest was expected to be very tight at the time.

The EC did not expect the court's actions to disrupt the polls. Chairperson Charlotte Osei announced that almost 90 percent of preparations for the elections had been completed. "You cannot only look at the case from the perspective of those whose nominations were not accepted. You also have to look at the rights of those who met the requirements within the nomination period. So we have to be very balanced and we have to follow the law," Osei said.

The E Commission in 2016 admitted that the voter register was blotted, there were people who used national health insurance cards to register, which is not a proper proof of a Ghanaian, because foreigners can also join the national health insurance.

The Supreme Court of Ghana, in a ruling in 2016 ordered that those who used the national insurance cards as identity should be removed from the register. The Commissioner, Ms. Charlotte Osei promised to audit the register and remove the names of those who used national health insurance cards according to the Supreme Court ruling.

In July 2017, during the trial of Ms Osei, the former EC chairman by a committee set up by the Chief Justice, Justice Sophia Akuffo to investigate complaints and corruption allegations levelled against her, in which she accused of breaching procurement laws in awarding several contracts, prior to 2016 Ghana elections, she alleged that one of her deputies, the Deputy Chair of Operations, Amadu Sulley, has persistently effected illegal vote transfers from his office on the Voter management system.

Charlotte Osei, who believes this was in clear breach of the law and operational policies of the Commission insisted such actions had “major implications for the integrity of the work of the Commission and constitutes abuse of office.” Mrs. Osei made this revelation in her response to the petition filed by the employees of EC that was calling for her removal at the time.

Her response which was filed by her Lawyer, Thadeaus Sory also made other damning allegations against Mr. Sulley including a claim that the latter illegally bagged 6 million from political parties. “The Deputy Chair Operations collected funds of six million Ghana cedis in cash from political parties for the organization of party primaries without recourse to the structures of the Commission, without the involvement of the finance department of the Commission.” She alleged.

“Political party primaries were treated as a private commercial project by the Deputy Chair Operation with funds paid directly into the personal accounts of key staff for functions to be performed for party primaries” She vowed to order a full scale investigation into the conduct of Mr. Sulley and other Commissioners believed to be flouting rules governing the Commission.

This, according to the EC Chairperson was “illegal, criminal and a breach of the policies of the Commission and the laws of Ghana.”

The Deputy Chair Operations also persistently effected illegal vote transfers from his office on the Voter management System in clear breach of the law and operational policies of the Commission. Such actions had major implications for the integrity of the work of the Commission and constitute abuse of office.

These allegations undermine and cast dark shadows on the voter register system we have in Ghana now.

One worrying complain concerning the old voter system is ECG’s claim that it does not have the password of the old register system. The password is still under the control of the foreign company who were contracted by the government to set up the system. The company is not willing to train EC staffs to operate and control the system by itself. That means, they can easily manipulate the system to the advantage of any party at any time.

During the time of the correlation of the 2016 election at the election control center, the ex-chair Charlotte Osei complained of tampering. A BBC News headline on December 8, 2016 read, “Ghana election commission website hit by cyber attack”. The news claimed that hackers had targeted the website of Ghana's electoral commission as votes were counted after tightly contested elections.

The commission said later that the website was up again, and that an attempt to put up "fake results" failed. In a tweet, it urged people to ignore the "fake results" circulating on social media. “We deplore the attempt to hack the EC's website. Please respect the integrity and independence of the EC," it said in a tweet.

The website was offline for about four hours, but the commission had not put up results overnight so there was no chance of any tampering, a spokesman told the BBC.

The New Patriotic Party (NPP) raised arguments against the credibility of the voter register following the Supreme Court ruling in 2012 after rejection of the election results and suing the ECG. The NPP challenged the results of Ghana’s 2012 presidential ballot in court, saying Mahama had benefited from illegitimate ballots. The court upheld Mahama’s win after eight months of legal wrangling. However, the Supremacy Court punched various holes in the voter register and ordered the ECG to correct them.

But the ECG failed to make the corrections. In August 2015, the NPP raised accusation against the ECG’s disobedience to the Supreme Court ruling, claiming that the voters’ register was incurably flawed and could not be relied on for the 2016 elections. The NPP vice presidential candidate Mahamudu Bawumia said in a news conference, “This morning we presented our arguments and evidence on this matter to the electoral commission.”

“The evidence is damning and shows that Ghana’s voters register has been compromised,” he said. The new register was expected to be created by June 2016 and be independently audited by an internationally reputable firm ahead of December 7 election, Bawumia added.

But a five-member committee set up by the ECG to look into the calls for a new voters’ register rejected the evidence provided by the NPP citing it as unconvincing.

Ms. Charlotte Osei was of the view that the NPP’s method for compiling a new voter’s register would require that Ghanaians show proof of citizenship using either a passport, a driver’s license or a National ID card.

“How many Ghanaians do you think have these? five million, six million?...I doubt if you can get even 10million” Charlotte argued.

“…for those who do not have a passport, driver’s license or a National ID card how are they going to be identified as a Ghanaian?” she wondered.

Old voter ID cards would be unacceptable and the Supreme Court had already barred the use of them and National Health Insurance cards as proof of Ghanaian citizenship. But Charlotte Osei explained that the commission could also not use the accepted practice of two Ghanaians testifying to the citizenship of a person who did not have any of the three IDs.

“This is because the citizenship of the two can also not be proven with their old voter ID cards”, Charlotte Osei said, explaining the limitations imposed by the NPP method.

“We are going to end up with a register that is very elitist and excludes the large majority of citizens. That is not our idea of inclusive democracy and that is not where we think we should be going”, she insisted. But Ms Charlotte Osei could not solve the issue of blotting voter register. The problem of flaws remained with the all important component of Ghana’s democratic process; credible voter register.

The Electoral Commission maintained that the absence of a National Identification System was forcing Ghanaians to get a credible voter’s ID card. The old voter ID card therefore remained the only means and easiest method of voter identification despite the Supreme Court ruling of its flaws and clear evidence of its ineligibility.

In 2015, the EC gave an intangible excuse that “a new voter’s ID will worsen fears expressed by political parties that there are minors and foreigners on the electoral roll because everybody will rush to obtain one even if they are not eligible to vote”.

The Chairperson of the Electoral Commission Mrs. Charlotte Osei said that Ghana would end up with a “very elitist” voter’s register if the Commission gave in to the methods suggested by the opposition New Patriotic Party.

She explained that the commission had resolved to audit the voters' register instead of giving in to the demand by the NPP for a new register. The audit included excluding all people who registered using natural insurance cards as identification and other measures ordered by the Supreme Court in 2012. However, the EC failed to do the auditing.

The issue of Ghanaian identity has been a headache since independence. No go enemies had taken the matter as a national priority from the era of the first president until recently. In countries such as Togo, Kenya and South Africa, citizens have a National ID and therefore do not need a voter ID card to determine citizenship. This was not the case in Ghana.

The NPP government’s prior agendum, in its first term in office in 2017 was to implement the Ghana National Identification. As at June 2020, the National Identification Authority (NIA) has registered and issued National ID cards to a total of eleven million Ghanaians, who are also eligible voters.

This has eased the identification qualification of Ghanaians. With the addition of those who have Ghanaian passports, the number of voters who would need identification by the testimony of two Ghanaians to citizenry without national card and passport would be very little.

Expected eligible voters for 2020: elections are around 17 million. The number of eligible voters had increased steadily. In 2000, the number were 10,698,652), 2004 (10,354,970), 2008 (12,472,758), 2012 (14,158,890) and 2016 (15,712,499). 2020 is expected to see an increase of nearly 2 million eligible voters, bringing the total eligible voters for 2020 elections to 17 million. With eleven million of them now having Ghana national ID, and with those who have no national ID yet, but Ghana passport, those to be identified by two Ghanaians would not be expected to be in a range of less than 3 million.

This would aid EC’s compilation of credible voter registration and ease the identification headache of many Ghanaians. The EC has a more credible way to identify and register eligible voters than ever before in the history of the electoral registration exercise. From 1993 till today, the three IDs used to register voters had been a passport, a driver’s license, national health Insurance card, which was described as a National ID card.

Apart from the passport, which provides a certain level of Ghanaian identity security, but not hundred percent since there were allegations that some foreigners in the country paid monies to acquire them, none of the identification materials were genuine proofs of Ghanaian identity. Driver’s license can be acquired by any foreigner residing in Ghana.

No Ghanaian was issued a credible National Identification card until recently. So the old voter registration is not a credible system to determine fair and flawless elections in Ghana. It cannot be acceptable as a credible voter register. The main identification materials, which were Ghana passport, a driver’s license and a national health insurance card, were not sure materials to identify a Ghanaian.

Based on these arguments, the only way to have a credible voter register in the country to ensure fair and flawless elections is a new voter register. The new voter register this round would be the most credible and reliable one than all the registers since 1993.

The use of the old voter cards as identity for the registration of a new voter card would mean bringing in the flaws of the old system ams should not be allowed. If the old registration cards are allowed, how then would the EC ensure the exclusion of those who used the national health insurance cards and those who were registered by the EC director illegally as Ms Osei claimed?

In 2012, the EC established a biometric system of registration for the electoral register prior to the 2012 presidential and parliamentary elections to prevent double registration and to eliminate ghost names in the old register. In preparation towards the 2020 elections, 257 of the 260 offices all over the country were linked on the internet. MTN won the bid to provide the internet network and Persol Systems, the bid to build the Data Center.

The function of the EC are laid out in Article 45 of the 1992 Constitution, namely:

  • to compile the register of voters and revise it as such periods as may be determined by law;
  • to undertake the delimitation of constituencies for both national and local government elections;
  • to conduct and supervise all public elections and referenda;
  • to educate the people on the electoral process and its purpose;
  • to undertake programmes for the expansion of the registration of voters (see Voter registration and voters' rolls); and
  • to perform such other functions as may be prescribed by law, such as election period and dates, overseeing candidates nominations and accrediting and election observation missions.

The Electoral Commission Act of 1993, added the following functions:

  • to undertake the preparation of voter identity cards; and
  • to store properly election material.

REGULATIONS
The EC has the power to make regulations for the effective performance of its functions by the issue of constitutional instruments (C.Is), especially for the execution of the functions described in 1992 Constitution, Article 55). The constitution allows the EC to issue C.Is as it deemed. The EC is further empowered y the CIs to implement any reform that it sees necessary for the credibility and advancement of electoral process in Ghana.

This has put our elections on dangerous footings till today. The NPP petitioned the EC amidst demonstrations with fatal consequences, yet the EC closed its eyes. It was a miracle that the 2016 elections was successful.

The reputation of the chairman of the Electoral Commission of Ghana (EC) and the courage demonstrated in applying the law impartially has contributed to the confidence the Ghanaians have in the ability of the Commission to discharge its function. The EC is widely seen as a buffer zone between the various political protagonists.

Article 46 of the 1992 Constitution holds that the Commission is not subject to any authority in performing its functions, the independence of the Commission is guaranteed by the 1992 constitution. Even though the Commission should have regular consultations with the political parties and other stakeholders, the Commission is mandated not to give in to any pressure.

The Chairperson of the Commission is supposed to be firm in its decisions, and should not easily give up to the wishes of stake holders under pressure. The firm decisions made by Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, the chairman of the Commission from 1993-2015, and Mrs Charlotte Osei, the chairwoman from June 2015 – June 2018, have given great reputation and trust to the Commission over these years.

In the run up to 2012 elections, some skeptics challenged the ECG on its creation of 45 additional constituencies. The matter went to the Supreme Court and the ECG won, under the interpretation of the Act 451 which set it up and Acts 47 and 51 of the 1992 Constitution.

After the December 2012 elections, there was the historic election petition process at the nation's Supreme Court that challenged the declaration of the winner as the duly elected presidential candidate. Even though the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the declared winner, it made several recommendations that paved the way for numerous interventions aimed at putting together proposals for electoral reform to fine-tune Ghana's electoral processes.

Several such reform proposals were submitted to the Electoral Commission by the end of 2013. Nevertheless, these were not implemented to guide the 2016 general elections. The successful conduct of the 2016 elections was therefore described as a “miracle.”

Among other reforms ordered under the Supreme Court ruling by Justice William Atugubah (“Justice Atuguba's judgement on the Election Petition,” 4 September 2013) were the streamlining of the Biometric Device System to avoid breakdowns and stress on the electorate involved in an adjournment of the poll; and invalidating wholesale votes for insignificant excess numbers not the best application of the administrative principle of the proportionality test.

The only proposal that was rejected by the Electoral Commission was the “no verification, no vote principle” (EC 2015). In the opinion of the EC, it would be unfair to turn back a voter if machines are unable to determine who is eligible to vote. The commission indeed recognised that the right of a citizen to vote is fundamental and guaranteed by the 1992 constitution.

In its view, it has an inherent mandate to ensure that every eligible voter gets the opportunity to vote. The commission argued that in the absence of the biometric verification device, or when it malfunctions, there should be other physical or manual means of verifying voters in order not to disenfranchise Ghanaians.

However, there were several issues that created doubts in the minds of many Ghanaians regarding the commission's preparedness for the task ahead. For instance, in the wake of several calls for electoral reform, the commission was caught in a quagmire of justifying the need to design a new logo.

There were unresolved issues with the voters’ register that led to the fear that many people who used the national health insurance identity card to register were not given ample time to re-register in accordance with the Supreme Court ruling. Again, there was no clarity regarding how the register was going to be pruned to rid it of the names that were not supposed to be on it.

Furthermore, there was a new commission chairperson, who was perceived as inexperienced. Also, the application of the electoral rules by the commission was perceived to have favoured the ruling party. Even though the main opposition party was cleared to contest the election, there were perceptions of executive and partisan manipulation on the part of the commission.

Instead of focusing on the implementation of the proposals to clean the voter register, improve the biometric verification devices for voter registration and exhibition, extend the period of notice for voter registration, reduce the number of voters per polling station and the concentrate on the upcoming elections in 2016, the commission launched a broader Strategic Plan (2016–2020) to become the benchmark in Africa for conducting “independent, trusted, world-class democratic elections for citizens and candidates alike.”

A Commission that sought to become a benchmark in Africa for conducting “independent, trusted, world-class democratic elections for citizens and candidates alike”, but had no credible voter registry and credible means of registering voters. The ECG did not consider its pressing homework, but engaged and spent huge sums of its funds on proposals that were less necessary.

One of the key proposals under the plan was to strengthen the EC's relations with key stakeholders and improve the flow of communications between them. In this regard, the EC was able to bring together several players and actors with differing interests and perspectives (EC; IPAC; candidates; media; voters; judiciary; security agencies; security task forces at the national, regional, and district levels; election observers; civil society organisations; development partners) to discuss issues relating to elections in Ghana and the role of the stakeholders.

However, the launch of the plan was a waste of time as it dealt with overarching issues rather than focusing on the pressing demand for vigorous electoral reform and the implementation of the specific proposals from the Electoral Reform Committee.

The state of electoral reform in Ghana appeared to be in limbo, as the key officials of the commission battled serious diversionary issues with respect to their integrity and continued stay in office as election management officials. Indeed, following the 2016 elections, there were petitions and counter-petitions to remove all three executive officers of the commission from office over allegations of corruption, malfeasance, in-fighting among the key officials, and abuse of office.

In an article published in December 2017 by Ransford Edward Van Gyampo, a member of the Electoral Reform Committee from the civil society groups that submitted proposals for electoral reform to the Electoral Commission, the Commission invited proposals for electoral reforms from 38 key stakeholders including political parties, faith-based organisations, professional bodies, and civil society organisations.

The IEA, for example, under the aegis of the GPPP, held a series of workshops to review the electoral processes. This culminated in the submission of 25 proposals for electoral reform to the EC on 20 November 2013.5 Subsequently, in January 2015, the EC inaugurated the 10-member Electoral Reforms Committee (ERC) to examine the proposals for electoral reform and advise the commission on the implementation of the proposals. The committee – which comprised representatives of political parties, of the EC, and of civil society organisations – submitted its report containing 41 proposals for electoral reform to the commission in April 2015

Moves towards electoral reform hit a snag in view of challenges within the EC itself at the time. The proposals that were submitted by the ERC could not be implemented, the changes in administrative practices and concrete actions that were discussed among the directors were pushed aside during the struggles among the commissioners and were not implemented.

The success of electoral reform, even though it must be a shared responsibility, must be the concern of the commission more than any other stakeholder. In this regard, the EC May work with the other institutions, but to ensure that all proposals are implemented lies solely on the commission. The roles played by Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC), Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), Ghana Political Parties Program (GPPP) and other stakeholders are very important, but their decisions are not mandatory to the work of the EC.

In the run up to the 2016 elections, a handful of political parties sued the ECG for disqualifying their would-be candidates from running for the presidency on December 7 elections. The Commission made the decision after it detected errors in the nomination forms handed in by the candidates. This legal action raised fears that the elections might have to be postponed.

The ECG filed a petition to the Supreme Court to challenge a ruling faulting it for not giving aggrieved candidates enough time to correct the alleged errors on their application forms. Many feared that the sum of legal battles would disrupt the 2016 election calendar.

Ghanaian voters were doubtful that there could be a peaceful,elections in the year. "Looking at the rate at which the cases are coming, I am beginning to worry about the process that the Electoral Commission has to put together before the elections," an Accra resident told DW. Another resident also said, “It won't surprise me if the court decides to postpone the elections to allow it to address all the cases against the Electoral Commission."

Some political analysts suggested to the commission to try to reach an out-of-court settlement with the concerned candidates: "Assuming that we are not able to hold elections on December 7 because of the court cases, what happens?" Kwesi Jonah, a political analyst asked. Jonah would like Ghana to maintain its reputation as a peaceful country with a tradition of free, fair and transparent elections.

The concerns of Ghanaians were that the December 7 2016 elections would be marred with the court case and ensuing disappointments of many voters.

The EC’s disqualifications left voters with only four presidential candidates to choose from. There were two favorites: the then President John Mahama of the National Democratic Congress, who was running for a second and final term, and his main rival, the opposition leader Nana Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party. Their contest was expected to be very tight at the time.

The EC did not expect the court's actions to disrupt the polls. Chairperson Charlotte Osei announced that almost 90 percent of preparations for the elections had been completed. "You cannot only look at the case from the perspective of those whose nominations were not accepted. You also have to look at the rights of those who met the requirements within the nomination period. So we have to be very balanced and we have to follow the law," Osei said.

The E Commission in 2016 admitted that the voter register was blotted, there were people who used national health insurance cards to register, which is not a proper proof of a Ghanaian, because foreigners can also join the national health insurance.

The Supreme Court of Ghana, in a ruling in 2016 ordered that those who used the national insurance cards as identity should be removed from the register. The Commissioner, Ms. Charlotte Osei promised to audit the register and remove the names of those who used national health insurance cards according to the Supreme Court ruling.

In July 2017, during the trial of Ms Osei, the former EC chairman by a committee set up by the Chief Justice, Justice Sophia Akuffo to investigate complaints and corruption allegations levelled against her, in which she accused of breaching procurement laws in awarding several contracts, prior to 2016 Ghana elections, she alleged that one of her deputies, the Deputy Chair of Operations, Amadu Sulley, has persistently effected illegal vote transfers from his office on the Voter management system.

Charlotte Osei, who believes this was in clear breach of the law and operational policies of the Commission insisted such actions had “major implications for the integrity of the work of the Commission and constitutes abuse of office.” Mrs. Osei made this revelation in her response to the petition filed by the employees of EC that was calling for her removal at the time.

Her response which was filed by her Lawyer, Thadeaus Sory also made other damning allegations against Mr. Sulley including a claim that the latter illegally bagged 6 million from political parties. “The Deputy Chair Operations collected funds of six million Ghana cedis in cash from political parties for the organization of party primaries without recourse to the structures of the Commission, without the involvement of the finance department of the Commission.” She alleged.

“Political party primaries were treated as a private commercial project by the Deputy Chair Operation with funds paid directly into the personal accounts of key staff for functions to be performed for party primaries” She vowed to order a full scale investigation into the conduct of Mr. Sulley and other Commissioners believed to be flouting rules governing the Commission.

This, according to the EC Chairperson was “illegal, criminal and a breach of the policies of the Commission and the laws of Ghana.”

The Deputy Chair Operations also persistently effected illegal vote transfers from his office on the Voter management System in clear breach of the law and operational policies of the Commission. Such actions had major implications for the integrity of the work of the Commission and constitute abuse of office.

These allegations undermine and cast dark shadows on the voter register system we have in Ghana now.

One worrying complain concerning the old voter system is ECG’s claim that it does not have the password of the old register system. The password is still under the control of the foreign company who were contracted by the government to set up the system. The company is not willing to train EC staffs to operate and control the system by itself. That means, they can easily manipulate the system to the advantage of any party at any time.

During the time of the correlation of the 2016 election at the election control center, the ex-chair Charlotte Osei complained of tampering. A BBC News headline on December 8, 2016 read, “Ghana election commission website hit by cyber attack”. The news claimed that hackers had targeted the website of Ghana's electoral commission as votes were counted after tightly contested elections.

The commission said later that the website was up again, and that an attempt to put up "fake results" failed. In a tweet, it urged people to ignore the "fake results" circulating on social media. “We deplore the attempt to hack the EC's website. Please respect the integrity and independence of the EC," it said in a tweet.

The website was offline for about four hours, but the commission had not put up results overnight so there was no chance of any tampering, a spokesman told the BBC.

The New Patriotic Party (NPP) raised arguments against the credibility of the voter register following the Supreme Court ruling in 2012 after rejection of the election results and suing the ECG. The NPP challenged the results of Ghana’s 2012 presidential ballot in court, saying Mahama had benefited from illegitimate ballots. The court upheld Mahama’s win after eight months of legal wrangling. However, the Supremacy Court punched various holes in the voter register and ordered the ECG to correct them.

But the ECG failed to make the corrections. In August 2015, the NPP raised accusation against the ECG’s disobedience to the Supreme Court ruling, claiming that the voters’ register was incurably flawed and could not be relied on for the 2016 elections. The NPP vice presidential candidate Mahamudu Bawumia said in a news conference, “This morning we presented our arguments and evidence on this matter to the electoral commission.”

“The evidence is damning and shows that Ghana’s voters register has been compromised,” he said. The new register was expected to be created by June 2016 and be independently audited by an internationally reputable firm ahead of December 7 election, Bawumia added.

But a five-member committee set up by the ECG to look into the calls for a new voters’ register rejected the evidence provided by the NPP citing it as unconvincing.

Ms. Charlotte Osei was of the view that the NPP’s method for compiling a new voter’s register would require that Ghanaians show proof of citizenship using either a passport, a driver’s license or a National ID card.

“How many Ghanaians do you think have these? five million, six million?...I doubt if you can get even 10million” Charlotte argued.

“…for those who do not have a passport, driver’s license or a National ID card how are they going to be identified as a Ghanaian?” she wondered.

Old voter ID cards would be unacceptable and the Supreme Court had already barred the use of them and National Health Insurance cards as proof of Ghanaian citizenship. But Charlotte Osei explained that the commission could also not use the accepted practice of two Ghanaians testifying to the citizenship of a person who did not have any of the three IDs.

“This is because the citizenship of the two can also not be proven with their old voter ID cards”, Charlotte Osei said, explaining the limitations imposed by the NPP method.

“We are going to end up with a register that is very elitist and excludes the large majority of citizens. That is not our idea of inclusive democracy and that is not where we think we should be going”, she insisted. But Ms Charlotte Osei could not solve the issue of blotting voter register. The problem of flaws remained with the all important component of Ghana’s democratic process; credible voter register.

The Electoral Commission maintained that the absence of a National Identification System was forcing Ghanaians to get a credible voter’s ID card. The old voter ID card therefore remained the only means and easiest method of voter identification despite the Supreme Court ruling of its flaws and clear evidence of its ineligibility.

In 2015, the EC gave an intangible excuse that “a new voter’s ID will worsen fears expressed by political parties that there are minors and foreigners on the electoral roll because everybody will rush to obtain one even if they are not eligible to vote”.

The Chairperson of the Electoral Commission Mrs. Charlotte Osei said that Ghana would end up with a “very elitist” voter’s register if the Commission gave in to the methods suggested by the opposition New Patriotic Party.

She explained that the commission had resolved to audit the voters' register instead of giving in to the demand by the NPP for a new register. The audit included excluding all people who registered using natural insurance cards as identification and other measures ordered by the Supreme Court in 2012. However, the EC failed to do the auditing.

The issue of Ghanaian identity has been a headache since independence. No go enemies had taken the matter as a national priority from the era of the first president until recently. In countries such as Togo, Kenya and South Africa, citizens have a National ID and therefore do not need a voter ID card to determine citizenship. This was not the case in Ghana.

The NPP government’s prior agendum, in its first term in office in 2017 was to implement the Ghana National Identification. As at June 2020, the National Identification Authority (NIA) has registered and issued National ID cards to a total of eleven million Ghanaians, who are also eligible voters.

This has eased the identification qualification of Ghanaians. With the addition of those who have Ghanaian passports, the number of voters who would need identification by the testimony of two Ghanaians to citizenry without national card and passport would be very little.

Expected eligible voters for 2020: elections are around 17 million. The number of eligible voters had increased steadily. In 2000, the number were 10,698,652), 2004 (10,354,970), 2008 (12,472,758), 2012 (14,158,890) and 2016 (15,712,499). 2020 is expected to see an increase of nearly 2 million eligible voters, bringing the total eligible voters for 2020 elections to 17 million. With eleven million of them now having Ghana national ID, and with those who have no national ID yet, but Ghana passport, those to be identified by two Ghanaians would not be expected to be in a range of less than 3 million.

This would aid EC’s compilation of credible voter registration and ease the identification headache of many Ghanaians. The EC has a more credible way to identify and register eligible voters than ever before in the history of the electoral registration exercise. From 1993 till today, the three IDs used to register voters had been a passport, a driver’s license, national health Insurance card, which was described as a National ID card.

Apart from the passport, which provides a certain level of Ghanaian identity security, but not hundred percent since there were allegations that some foreigners in the country paid monies to acquire them, none of the identification materials were genuine proofs of Ghanaian identity. Driver’s license can be acquired by any foreigner residing in Ghana.

No Ghanaian was issued a credible National Identification card until recently. So the old voter registration is not a credible system to determine fair and flawless elections in Ghana. It cannot be acceptable as a credible voter register. The main identification materials, which were Ghana passport, a driver’s license and a national health insurance card, were not sure materials to identify a Ghanaian.

Based on these arguments, the only way to have a credible voter register in the country to ensure fair and flawless elections is a new voter register. The new voter register this round would be the most credible and reliable one than all the registers since 1993.

The use of the old voter cards as identity for the registration of a new voter card would mean bringing in the flaws of the old system ams should not be allowed. If the old registration cards are allowed, how then would the EC ensure the exclusion of those who used the national health insurance cards and those who were registered by the EC director illegally as Ms Osei claimed?

In 2012, the EC established a biometric system of registration for the electoral register prior to the 2012 presidential and parliamentary elections to prevent double registration and to eliminate ghost names in the old register. In preparation towards the 2020 elections, 257 of the 260 offices all over the country were linked on the internet. MTN won the bid to provide the internet network and Persol Systems, the bid to build the Data Center.

The function of the EC are laid out in Article 45 of the 1992 Constitution, namely:

  • to compile the register of voters and revise it as such periods as may be determined by law;
  • to undertake the delimitation of constituencies for both national and local government elections;
  • to conduct and supervise all public elections and referenda;
  • to educate the people on the electoral process and its purpose;
  • to undertake programmes for the expansion of the registration of voters (see Voter registration and voters' rolls); and
  • to perform such other functions as may be prescribed by law, such as election period and dates, overseeing candidates nominations and accrediting and election observation missions.

The Electoral Commission Act of 1993, added the following functions:

  • to undertake the preparation of voter identity cards; and
  • to store properly election material.

REGULATIONS
The EC has the power to make regulations for the effective performance of its functions by the issue of constitutional instruments (C.Is), especially for the execution of the functions described in 1992 Constitution, Article 55). The constitution allows the EC to issue C.Is as it deemed. The EC is further empowered y the CIs to implement any reform that it sees necessary for the credibility and advancement of electoral process in Ghana.

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