Friday, 02 December

Using Ghana card to register voters won’t ‘disenfranchise’ anyone – PNC backs EC

Politics
PNC General Secretary Janet Nabla

The People’s National Convention (PNC) has said it supports the use of the Ghana card as the sole document for the registration of new voters since it is backed by law.

At a press conference in Accra on Wednesday, 16 August 2022, the party’s General Secretary Janet Asana Nabla, said: “It should be noted that young people coming in have over two years to acquire their Ghana card and register to vote”, adding: “The age for acquisition of the Ghana card is 16 while that for voter registration is 18, giving a whole two-year margin for new voters to acquire a Ghana card”.

Moreover, Ms Nabla pointed out, “the register will be closed in October 2024, so, no one will be disenfranchised”.

“We should also note that one does not need an ID to vote. That is the beauty of biometric registration. Your best ID is your bio data (your fingerprint)”, she indicated.

Again, she added, “following this, there will also be no new mass reregistration as was done previously. There is no fear then that a current voter who does not have a Ghana card will be taken off the voter list. In other words, there is no fear of disenfranchisement if the person is already on the register”.

Read the full press statement below:

Distinguished party members, Friends from the media, Ladies and Gentlemen, I must first express my sincerest appreciation to you for honouring our invitation to the press conference.

The reason for this conference is to set the record straight on matters of registration of qualified Ghanaians onto the electoral register and the position of the People’s National Convention in the midst of a categorical attempt by some people to, again, create tension over unambiguous electoral laws and some Constitutional Instruments enacted over the years.

Friends from the media, the Electoral Commission of Ghana has placed a draft C.I. titled: Public Regulations 2021, which is expected to regulate the continuous voter registration.

Per the C.I., the EC is seeking to make the Ghana card the sole identification medium for eligible voters who want to get onto the electoral roll.

The C.I has been referred to a Subsidiary Legislation Committee of Parliament and we know by convention, this committee is chaired by a member of the minority group.

THE PNC ASSESSMENT SO FAR

1. The Electoral Commission used Ghana card, passport and 2 guarantors in the absence of the other IDs for the 2020 election. That register remains valid. What is upcoming is continuous registration. The EC has not said it is conducting a new registration exercise.

2. The EC has assessed and come to a conclusion that most potential new voters will have the Ghana card thereby eliminating the need for calling for either of the previously used multiple identities. Moreover, the guaranteed system can easily be abused in border areas.

3. This is a national policy and, like all other systems which have now been changed to register individuals through the Ghana card, the EC is doing same. It’s nothing new and unfounded

4. It should be noted that young people coming in have over two years to acquire their Ghana card and register to vote. The age for acquisition of the Ghana card is 16 while that for voter registration is 18, giving a whole two-year margin for new voters to acquire a Ghana card.

Moreover, the register will be closed in October 2024, so, no one will be disenfranchised.

We should also note that one does not need an ID to vote. That is the beauty of biometric registration. Your best ID is your bio data (your fingerprint).

5. Again, following this, there will also be no new mass reregistration as was done previously. There is no fear then that a current voter who does not have a Ghana card will be taken off the voter list. In other words, there is no fear of disenfranchisement if the person is already on the register.

6. There are no inhibitions or any reason that prevents any citizen who is eligible to vote from securing a Ghana card between now and October 2024 to register on the electoral roll.

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is important at this juncture, for us to recall some important events and legislative processes and decisions that set a clear direction, as to what MUST be the core or sole document for registration and compilation of our electoral roll.

In January 2008: Parliament of Ghana passed the National Identity Register Act, 2008 (Act 750). The Act was to, among others, ‘provide for the capture of personal information of individuals by the Authority for the issue of national identity cards.

Section 18(1) of Act 707 empowers the Minister to make Legislative Instruments to, among others, ‘(i) provide for the uses to which identity cards shall be put.’ Section 73(1) of Act 750 empowered the Minister to make Legislative Instruments to, among others, ‘(f) provide that every public office should demand the presentation of an identity card as a condition precedent to the provision of its service.’

In February 2012: Hon Alhassan Azong, Minister/MP prepared and laid before the Parliament of Ghana, which passed the National Identity Register Regulations, 2012 (LI 2111). Regulation 7 of LI 2111 is titled ‘Mandatory use of national identity card.’

Regulation 7(1) says: ‘A national identity card issued to an individual shall be used for the following transactions where identification is required… (j) registration of voters… *(l) registration of SIM cards.’

Friends from the media, Ladies and Gentlemen, it is against this backdrop that the People’s National Convention supported the use of the Ghana card as the sole or breeder document for purposes of registering citizens into our electoral roll.

In April 2006: Parliament of Ghana passed the National Identification Authority Act, 2006 (Act 707). The Act was to, among others, establish an Authority responsible for the issue of national identity cards.’

The PNC’s position comes days after Ghana’s longest-serving Chairman of the Electoral Commission, Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, said, without having the Ghana card, “Ghanaian citizens don’t lose their citizenship if they are 18 years or older”, adding: “So, the moot question is: why make the Ghana card the only means of identification for purposes of establishing eligibility to register to vote”.

So far, 16,969,034 have registered for the Ghana card and 15.7 million have received it.

The EC, recently said after a series of meetings with the political parties and civil society organisations, it has been agreed among the parties that the Ghana card be used as the sole document for voter registration.

“It was agreed that now that the Ghana card has made a lot of impact in our society – as we speak now, almost 17 million Ghanaians have registered for the Ghana card, so, the Commission, in collaboration with our partners, took the decision that: ‘Now, let’s have the Ghana card as the main requirement’”, Dr Bossman Asare, Deputy Chairman of the EC in charge of Corporate Services, has said.

“So, what this means is that as soon as you acquire your Ghana card, with the continuous registration, you just go to our district office then you go and register then your name will be put on the roll of voters”, he said in an interview on Accra-based Joy News.

His comments came a few days after Vice-President Mahamudu Bawumia hinted at the likelihood of using the card for voter registration for either the 2024 or 2028 general elections.

Dr Bawumia promised Ghanaians at the 2022 Civil Service Awards ceremony in Accra on 29 July 2022 that with the Ghana card and digitalisation drive, “very soon, you’d see that our problems with voter registration would disappear”.

“It’s only a matter of time. If not at the next election then the next election after that because we spend so much on voter registration but once unique identification is determined and you cannot have underage people coming to register to vote and all of that, I think the Ghana card would be a good identification document as we are already seeing so that we sanitise the voter registration system”, Dr Bawumia said.

He noted: “In many countries, once you are 18, you are essentially on the voter register and that is it”.

“There’s no complication to this and going to fight and break legs and so on, as we register to vote”, he noted.

“I mean the system is the system”, added Dr Bawumia, stressing: “If you are 18, you are on the register – simple!”

“And, I think this is where we are headed”, he hinted.

In his view, Ghana has been stuck in the brick-and-mortar model of development, which, in his estimation, has not generated the needed transformation.

Systems, as being put in place by the Akufo-Addo government through the digitalisation drive, are what will transform the country, Dr Bawumia argued, in support of his earlier assertion that he would prefer the Ghana card – which, he observed, is the fulcrum of the establishment of those systems – to 1,000 interchanges.

“A lot of the time, we have, as a country, really focused on brick and mortar for development: build this road, you build this and build that but we have not focused on systems for the longest time but systems and data and institutions are what develop countries, it’s not brick and mortar”, he explained.

“So, these systems that we are putting in place – digitalisation of the various public sector offices and all of that: national ID, mobile money and all of that – is what will transform Ghana; it’s really what will transform Ghana and that is why as we enter the Fourth Industrial Revolution, we have to pay attention to this”.

The Ghana card is a valid verification document issued by the National Identification Authority (NIA) to Ghanaians and resident foreign nationals living everywhere for the purpose of identification.

The card bears personal information about the individuals whose identity can be verified at all times. The NIA National Identity System utilises three types of biometric technology for identification purposes.

These are the fingerprints unique to each individual in the form of digitised templates, and facial templates in the form of a digitised colour photo of the cardholder and the iris.

The card contains basic identification information including a photograph of the cardholder, along with a name, date of birth, height, and a personal identification number that has been randomly generated and assigned to the holder and has an expiry date.

However, Dr Afari-Gyan, who served for 22 years between 1993 and 2015, as EC Chair, told Graphic Online in an interview that fact that the number of people with Ghana cards included those below the voting age of 18, and juxtaposing that with the Ghana Statistical Service’s projection that people aged 18 years and above would hit 19.5 million in 2023, the potential for many people to be disenfranchised as a result of the use of the Ghana card as the only source document for voter registration was high.

“The electorate are the kingmakers. So, a basic responsibility of any electoral commission is to facilitate the realisation of the people's right to register as voters, and not to obstruct that right by demanding for registration purposes documents that are not easily accessible to the people,” he added.

New C.I

Last month, the EC placed before Parliament a draft C.I titled: Public Elections (Registration of Voters) Regulations, 2021, which is expected to regulate continuous voter registration.

Per the new C.I, which would become law after 21 sitting days of Parliament, the EC is seeking to make the Ghana Card the sole form of identification for eligible voters who want to get unto the electoral roll.

The C.I has been referred to the Subsidiary Legislation Committee of Parliament. By convention, the committee is chaired by a member of the Minority group.

Orders, rules or regulations made pursuant to provisions of the Constitution or an Act of Parliament must be laid before Parliament for 21 sitting days before they come into force.

Any such subsidiary legislations so laid are referred to the committee to determine whether it is in accordance with the general objectives of the constitution or the Act pursuant to which it is being made.

It also determines whether the legislation contains any matter, which in the opinion of the committee should be dealt with in an Act of Parliament; directly or indirectly bars the jurisdiction of the courts; gives retrospective effect to any provision contrary to provisions of the Constitution or an existing Act; involves expenditure from the Consolidated Fund or has a form or structure which calls for further elucidation, among other things.

Concerns 

Even before the EC had laid the new C.I before Parliament, the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) accused the EC of planning to compile a new voter register for the 2024 general election, with the Ghana Card as the only source document.

The Minority Leader in Parliament, Haruna Iddrisu, said any move by the EC to compile a new voter register with the Ghana Card solely as the mode of identification would not bode well for the country, especially when the EC had already expended huge sums of money to compile a new register which was used for the 2020 general election.

The EC debunked the assertion by the NDC and said the new C.I was only meant to regulate continuous registration, with the Ghana Card as the source document.

“We are not compiling a new voter register. The one we compiled in 2020 is a credible one, a very good register so we are not dispensing it,” the Director of Electoral Services of the EC, Dr Serebour Quaicoe, told the media.

Meanwhile, in Parliament, the new C.I laid by the EC caused heated debates, with the Minority calling for the EC to come and explain the rationale for the use of the Ghana Card as the only source document.

At Parliament’s sitting on July 21, this year, the First Deputy Minority Chief Whip, Ibrahim Ahmed, said it was necessary for the EC to brief the House on the new C.I. to erase any “controversial issue of mistrust.”

For his part, the Majority Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, rejected the call by the Minority, describing it as premature, adding that the next general election was not yet due.

Registration centres

Another concern raised by Dr Afari-Gyan on the new C.I bothered on the registration centres and registration supervisors for the voter registration exercise.

Per the new C.I, the E.C envisages conducting the exercise from its district offices, with the district registration supervisor and the registration centre supervisor reporting to the regional officer.

To Dr Afari-Gyan, with the proposed arrangement, it meant fewer registration centres as compared to the number of polling stations, a situation he fears could be problematic with regard to the polling centres that will be assigned to the registered voters, and how the voters will know their assigned polling stations.

“One way to dodge this problem is to use a voter register that is not polling station-specific on Election Day,” he said.

With regard to the supervisors, the political scientist and former lecturer advocated that for accountability purposes, the registration reports should not only be sent to the regional officer of the EC, but to the district officer as well, since “the district officers were closer to the registration proceedings in their various districts.”

Two registers 

The former EC boss, who succeeded Justice Josiah Ofori Boateng, who headed the Interim Electoral Commission which conducted the 1992 general election, also faulted the new C.I for proposing two new kinds of voters register, namely electoral area register and constituency register.

Such a move, Dr Afari-Gyan contended, could give rise to multiple voting and ballot stuffing, because the Biometric Verification Devices (BVDs) at the various polling stations were not interlinked to know a voter who had already voted.

“Until such time that the BVDs are configured to be interactive in this way, my concern about any of the two registers being used at the polling station on Election Day is that it opens the door more widely to two kinds of voting infractions, namely multiple voting and ballot stuffing,” he added.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: Classfmonline.com