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15.01.2020 Article

Demystifying The Ec’s Arguments For A New Voter Register

By Kwabreba Sawa
Demystifying The Ec’s Arguments For A New Voter Register
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So the Jean Mensah led Electoral Commission has decided that it would compile a new voter register before the 2020 elections and absolutely nothing or no one can make it see reason. In fact, they have advanced some technical arguments in support of this entrenched stance. The experts in IT would argue on the merits or otherwise of those arguments.

I understand that for a lot of people who are not IT inclined, they are wowed by these technical jargons and so the EC would want to capitalize on these vulnerabilities. Remember when Dr. Bawumia, during the Supreme Court petition, believed himself a genius because he was using words like soft copy, PowerPoint presentation, PDF conversion, facial recognition etc. In fact, many were those who thought the NPP had a case because they did not understand that these were mere IT terminologies. I have since advocated for the introduction of a Comprehensive Computing Education at the basic levels so that never again would the citizenry be made a mockery of because of some mysterious IT jargons.

Here we are again today that Jean Mensah and Dr Asare Bossman, having made up their minds even before they became EC commissioners that the EC ought to compile a new register, would like us believe that the need for a new register is necessitated by the imaginary urgent need to replace the IT infrastructure of the EC. All other justifications have fallen flat and so the EC is now clutching desperately on the IT infrastructure argument.

First, there were arguments of the register being over-bloated and overstretched. That claim is even defeated by the near 100% turnouts recorded in the referendum that created the 6 new regions. Unless the referendum was not credible, no sane person or group of persons can make a case of over bloating against a register that has recorded turnouts of over 90% very recently in the referendum supervised by the same person or group. A database of human beings taking into account factors like death means there is always an acceptable margin of error. This over bloating claim is the weakest and I am not surprised the EC is no longer using it.

There is also the claim that the EC had incurred costs in compiling previous registers and so the current cost in compiling a new register is justified. The only costs that can be justified are the ones already spent on acquiring the current biometric data which has proven to be fit for purpose and has successfully delivered two general elections with the possibility of a third but for the insistence of the EC on compiling a new register. The amount already spent may only become a waste if the current EC throws away the biometric database in order to compile a new biometric database when all that is needed is an update. And so, however you look at it, it is the current EC that would be wasting scarce tax payers’ money if they go ahead with their entrenched position of compiling a new biometric register. The cost-benefit analysis thus far does not give any compelling justifications for a new voter register.

I think the EC would have done us all a world of good if they had stayed clear of the facial recognition argument. A system that they themselves know is only 80% effective amongst black people and therefore intends to only use it as second layer of verification for persons who cannot be verified by fingerprints. This, they say, would mean that those who are unable to be verified either by fingerprint or facial recognition would therefore be ineligible to vote. I don’t know what informed this thinking but something must be wrong with the current EC if they do not envisage the human right abuses and the potential court cases it would suffer with such an arrangement. For instance, during the current district assembly elections, some 34,843 electorates were manually verified to vote. Under the EC’s new proposal, assuming the facial recognition was to work at its full 80% efficiency, it means some 6,969 people would have been disenfranchised completely. This is certainly unacceptable as the number grows much bigger if you situate it in the context of general elections where turnout is much higher. This is Common Sense!

The EC’s last and only option now appears to be the need for a new data center and that some of the equipment/devices are end of life and therefore obsolete. For now, it looks like this is the only feasible claim the EC is hanging onto. I would leave this argument for the IT experts to argue it out as I do not believe that any data center in this world could reach its end of life in just about 7 or 8 years but then I am struggling to understand why the need for a new data center and/or equipment automatically translates into the need for the compilation of a new database. I mean, who does that in this day and age? Are the commissioners and their technical experts oblivious of the term “COMPATIBILITY”? This is not rocket science but basic computing! This is the reason why you are able to open your Word 1997 or 2003 document in Word 2010! All the EC ought to do is to give the specifications that would allow the database to run on the new data center and/or equipment to the vendors whose job it is to tailor their product to accommodate it. It is that simple! As to why the EC is determined to make it look more complex than it is defies logic.

I was in the Ashanti region for my Ghana card registration, I witnessed the queues and the inconveniences people had to go through. Aside the issue of very few centers, the time spent on capturing data also contributed to the long queues and delays. The EC registration currently does not take that much time but would most likely be same as the Ghana card with the introduction of facial recognition. With the benefit of the experience of the limited registration in 2019, the queues may be much worse. The Ghanaian is growing impatient of the artificial inconveniences created by these state institutions to serve purposes only know to those in charge of these institutions. The EC should not put the 2020 elections at the mercy of the Ghanaian's anger!

If the Jean Mensah led EC are not minded by the many cautions and wise counsel, they should at least do a common sense analysis, just as I have done.

Please, pray for Ghana and the EC!
Kwabreba Sawa
Ahwiaa – Kwabre East,
Ashanti Region.

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