The Danquah Institute has expressed worry at the Electoral Commission’s (EC) decision to embark on a revision of the voters register.
The exercise is supposed to take place from June 20 to Sunday, June 29, 2014. According to the Deputy Chairman (Operations) of the EC, Mr. Amadu Sulley, this revision is a limited voter registration intended to offer Ghanaians who have attained the voting age of 18 years since the last registration in 2012, and also for those who were above the age of 18, and could not, for various reasons, register as voters in 2012.
However, in a press conference held on Thursday and led by Mr Boakye Agyarko, a fellow of the Danquah Institute, indicated that the exercise “is an admission on the part of the EC that all is well with Ghana’s voter register, which cannot be the case”.
He added that "the EC must, as a matter of urgency, suspend the limited registration exercise until an audit and a clean-up of our current roll is done. The EC must find money for this process if we are to continue believing that the body has the interests of Ghana’s democracy and not any other parochial interest at heart".
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PRESS CONFERENCE ORGANISED BY THE DANQUAH INSTITUTE ON THE DECISION BY THE ELECTORAL COMMISSION TO UNDERTAKE A LIMITED VOTER REGISTRATION EXERCISE
Ladies and Gentlemen,
On behalf of the Danquah Institute, I wish to thank you for making time, on such short notice, to be present at this all important press conference.
We called you here today to put an issue before you, which we believe is of the utmost importance to the success of Ghana’s democracy. The way and manner this issue is currently being handled, and being treated as a triviality by the Electoral Commission is worrying and poses a serious threat to the stability of our democratic and electoral process.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the Electoral Commission announced on the 9th of May that it intended to embark on a revision of the voters register from Friday, June 20 to Sunday, June 29, 2014. According to the Deputy Chairman (Operations) of the EC, Mr. Amadu Sulley, this revision is a limited voter registration intended to offer Ghanaians who have attained the voting age of 18 years since the last registration in 2012, and also for those who were above the age of 18, and could not, for various reasons, register as voters in 2012.
This intended move by the EC is the source of worry for the Danquah Institute and many well-meaning Ghanaians.
It is an admission on the part of the EC that all is well with Ghana’s voter register, which cannot be the case. As we all saw in the Presidential Election Petition, which challenged the declaration of John Mahama as winner of the 2012 elections by Dr Afari Gyan, Ghana’s voter’s register cannot be relied upon for the 2016 general elections, and any other election for that matter.
Admissions during Election Petition
The case at the Supreme Court revealed clearly for all to see that all is not well with Ghana’s register. The petitioners in the case proved this point beyond all reasonable doubt.
A case in point was the provision of different voters register to the New Patriotic Party, for instance. It is recalled that the total number of registered voters that the EC furnished the Petitioners’ party, the NPP, with was fourteen million and thirty-one thousand, six hundred and eighty (14,031,680). Subsequently, it came to the notice of the Petitioners that the EC had on Sunday, 9th December 2012, declared the total number of registered voters as fourteen million, one hundred and fifty eight thousand, eight hundred and ninety (14,158,890).
Furthermore, on the same date, the EC posted on its website the total number of registered voters as fourteen million and thirty one thousand, seven hundred and ninety three (14,031,793) showing a clear disparity of one hundred and twenty seven thousand and ninety seven (127,097). The Chairman of the EC, during the trial, could not provide cogent reasons for this discrepancy.
Furthermore, although a common register was compiled for both the presidential and parliamentary elections, it turned out, from the results declared by the EC, that the total number of registered voters in respect of the presidential election exceeded that of the registered voters for the parliamentary elections by one hundred and twenty-seven thousand, two hundred and ten (127,210) voters.
Upon further scrutiny of the voters register, it was also shown in court that some of the voter ID numbers supposedly belonging to some of the foreign registered voters could not be found on the general voters register, that is to say, they were/are fake identities. These fake ID numbers for the multiple names also had a unique pattern. For most of them, the pattern was to add "1" to, or subtract "1" from, the 5th digit of the ID number and subtract ‘2’ from the last digit. For example:
a) Abudul-Mumin Bashiru (No. 159 on the list) with voter ID number – 1852801842; and
b) Abdul-Mumin Bashiru (No. 572 on the list), with voter ID number - 1852901840.
For the avoidance of detection, the EC also placed the duplicate names far apart from each other, making their detection difficult. For instance, one Abdul Bassit Ibrahim was placed 11th on the list, while the second Abdul Bassit Ibrahim was placed 465th on the list. Similarly, while a Paul Yaw Essel was placed at No. 338 another Paul Yaw Essel was at No. 603.
The Chairman of the EC admitted all of these in court. Till date, we have no idea as to what the exact number of registered voters in Ghana is. And yet still, the EC wants to go ahead and conduct additional registration, without cleaning the voters’ register? This, certainly, does not bode well for future elections in our dear nation.
In the words of Dr. Afari Gyan concerning Ghana’s 2008 voters register;
“If our population is indeed 22 million, then perhaps 13 million people on our register would be statistically unacceptable by world standards. If that is the case, then it may mean that there is something wrong with our register.”
As per Dr. Afari Gyan’s assertions in 2008, a voter registers containing 12,472,758 out of a population of 22 million persons which represents a percentage of 56.69% was statistically unacceptable, then 56.20% voter population in 2012 is clearly statistically unacceptable.
Nigeria, which has a population of 162,470,737 has a voter population of 67,764,327, representing 41.7%. Kenya, with a population of 41,609,728 has a voter population of 14,362,189 representing34.50%. Tanzania, with 42.50% and Senegal with 41.50% of registered voters to their total populations are all significantly lower than Ghana’s. South Africa, who recently had their elections boast of a voter population of 25,390,159 out of a population of some 53 million people, representing 47.9% of the total population.
Why is Ghana percentage so high? One does not need rocket science to tell us that there is something fundamentally wrong with our voters register.
Call for an audit
In view of these, the only logical step is for a comprehensive audit to be conducted on the current voters’ register, as a guarantee to its credibility, if we are not sure, as a country, where the funds for a new voter register would be obtained from.
Auditing of voter registration should be of prime interest to the stakeholders of our electoral process. It provides, amongst others, the opportunity to understand the processes for establishing/updating voter registers as well as assessing the resulting voters register.
Audits of the voter rolls are a common feature across most parts of the world. For example, the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI), in collaboration with the Yemen Electoral Monitoring Network (YEMN), carried out an audit of the voter registration process in Yemen in 2008. The audit was undertaken partly as a result of distrust among the local political parties regarding the impartiality of the electoral commission and partly because of the widespread protests that occurred during the registration process.
The EC must, as a matter of urgency, suspend the limited registration exercise until an audit and a clean-up of our current roll is done. The EC must find money for this process if we are to continue believing that the body has the interests of Ghana’s democracy and not any other parochial interest at heart.
An audit should be seen as the first necessary step in ensuring that we have free, fair, transparent, and peaceful general elections in 2016. Without it, the risk of having another disputed election looms large.
Creation of Additional Polling Stations
The creation of additional polling stations by the EC and the way it's been done, is just as messy as the way in which they created additional constituencies. The EC announced that it was raising the number of polling stations from 26,002 to 35,000 meaning an addition or 8998 polling stations. The EC said that the basis for the additional polling stations was to split all existing polling station in excess of 800. While we recognize the authority of the EC to create additional polling stations as it pleases, the way in which it has been handled and the total lack of transparency is very troubling.
If the EC tells us that it will create additional polling stations by splitting existing stations that are in excess of 800 registered voters then a count based on the registered EC provided to political parties reveals that there are only 4391 polling stations in that category and affects a total of 4,069,091 registered voters. Let us admit that the EC wants to cater for population growth and still maintain the ceiling of 800 voters, at a linear projection of 2.5% growth the addition to population is 1.5 million people. These can be catered by an additional 1,875 polling stations. Adding 4391 polling stations to be created to the projected 1875 gives as a total of 6,266 polling stations that the EC can create under its own announced guidelines. It cannot therefore be that the EC wants to add an additional 8,998 polling stations.
If the EC changes the threshold to 700 voters as a ceiling per polling stations, then the relevant numbers will be as follows; the number of polling stations in excess of 700 registered voters is equal to 7,079 and affects a total o 6,077,544 registered voters. To accommodate population growth, the EC needs to project an additional 2,143 polling station and therefore the total to be created must equal 9,222 polling station, which is in excess of the 8,998 announced.
If the threshold is lowered to 600 voters as a ceiling per polling station, then the relevant numbers are as follows; the number of polling stations in excess of 600 registered voters is 10,947 and affects a total of 8,578,978 registered voters. To accommodate for population growth, the EC needs to project an additional 2,500 polling stations bringing the total to be created to 13,447, which is far in excess of the 8,998 announced by the EC.
The creation of these polling stations are in progress, yet the EC has not found it fit to involve the main actors of the political process, the political parties. Instead of leaving everyone guessing and groping in the dark for answers, it is incumbent on the EC to be transparent and open so that all can understand its processes and methodologies without raising suspicion.
The EC after the Supreme Court petition needs to repair its credibility and the faith citizens of this country must have in such an important institution. Its actions must not deepen further its tarnished reputation to the detriment of the democratic process of Ghana.
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