A lecturer at the University of Cape Coast (UCC), Mr Jonathan Asante Okyere, has said Ghana does not have “abundant resources” to afford the luxury of “wasting money” to compile a new register of voters with a few months to the December polls.“I’m not foreseeing a situation where the Electoral Commission can go ahead to conduct elections using a new voter’s register. All in all, wisdom should prevail and the wisdom is that apart from the fact that we’re being overwhelmed with poverty, we’re in debt to the extent that the government is going to raise a bond of US$3 billion…” he stated.“I’m not foreseeing a situation where the Electoral Commission can go ahead to conduct elections using a new voter’s register. All in all, wisdom should prevail and the wisdom is that apart from the fact that we’re being overwhelmed with poverty, we’re in debt to the extent that the government is going to raise a bond of US$3 billion…” he stated.
The EC insists on compiling a new register and has the support of the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) as well as some other opposition parties but the biggest opposition party, National Democratic Congress (NDC), as well as other opposition parties and some 18 civil society organisations, are against it.
Mr Okyere, however, believes the EC’s posturing is wrong.
At a press conference on Tuesday, 31 December 2019 to make a case for a new Biometric Voter Management System as well as a new voter roll, the EC’s Deputy Chairman in-charge of Operations, Mr Samuel Tettey, debunked assertions that the register of voters, in the past, “were used for ten years before they were replaced”.“This assertion is not true”, he assertedHe explained that: “Since 1987/88, the EC has replaced the voters register three times: 1995, 2004 and 2012. The 1987/88 voters register was used for 7 years, that of 1992 was used for 9 years, the 2004 register was replaced after 8 years and the 2012 register has been used for 8 years. It has been the practice over the years to replace the voters register after every 8 years: that is after two General Elections and two District Level Elections”.
According to him, “The reason for the periodic replacement of the voters’ register is mainly due to reforms to improve the credibility and integrity of the register hence our intention to add facial recognition to completely eliminate manual verification all together, thereby ensuring credibility and integrity of the elections”.
“Another reason for the difficulty of removing the names of the deceased from it, thus, rendering the register highly bloated after being used for 8 years. In effect, using such a register for subsequent election(s) will greatly affect the credibility of the election(s)”, Mr Tettey noted.
He also debunked assertions that state resources would be wasted in the process. “It has been alleged that the EC is wasting public resources to compile new voters register. This accusation is also far from the truth”, he said, recalling: “In 2012, the new voters register cost the Commission GHS 169,730,146.00. The 2014/2015 Limited Registration Exercise cost GHS 287,559.379. In 2016, the Limited Registration Exercise cost GHS 487,998,714.00; it is important to note that the compilation of a new voters register in 2020 is estimated to cost GHS 390,265,186.44. Note that we are referring to a new register here”.” The expenses stated above relate to cost of hiring registration officials and procurement of consumable registration materials. It’s worth mentioning that the current administration of the Commission is committed to judicious use of state resources for electoral activities”.
Mr Okyere, however, said: “If it is quite prudent to have used such an electoral register, recording less than 1% error to elect district assembly members, then what reason can the EC give Ghanaians to buy into it?”
He also noted that although the EC has the constitutional right to compile a new register, “just six of them [Commissioners] cannot determine for Ghana”.
He asserted that the members of the EC are experts in their own areas of expertise but in terms of technical knowhow and IT systems and how elections are conducted, most of them are novices and, so, they should listen to divergent views.