The past week has seen a major street protest in Kumasi by thousands of Ghanaians calling for a clear way forward to clean the Voters Register in time for the 2016 elections.
In the aftermath of this great protest in Kumasi, the issue of how to clean the Voters Register in time for the 2016 election has been a major talking point in our national discussions.
There is no doubt that the Voters Register is hopelessly bloated and therefore not fit for purpose for the 2016 elections.
This concern has been expressed by all, -- the Supreme Court, the Electoral Commission, The political parties, civil society and the ECs five member panel (which reported there are indeed six hundred thousand names on deceased people and also statistically projected that the register should not have more than thirteen million names)
Various measures have been advocated to clean the register to make it fit for purpose for the 2016 elections.
The Npp had advocated a completely new register as solution to the bloated register.
The EC believes the compilation of a new register was not necessary.
To the EC, the current Challenge procedures under CI 72, and now C1 91 -which provide the mechanism of Exhibition for cleaning records in the register, "are sufficient "
However the EC's own Committee /Panel of Experts , set up to evaluate proposals for cleaning the register and make faithful recommendations on the subject, has categorically rejected the Exhibition process as not adequate and not viable " for the purpose of cleaning up the bloated register.
In the words of the Panel, on page 17 paragraph 17 of their report: “Judging by the sheer numbers, the Electoral Commission’s proposition to display the register, with political parties, the Electoral Commission and the citizenry to identify and point out invalid names, IS NOT A VIABLE APPROACH, particularly when the persons who identify these records are expected to expend their time, energy and resources not only to provide the evidence but also to testify before a court of competent jurisdiction. "
The Panel continues on Page 18: "the system is not effective in achieving the set goals of eliminating invalid records from the register and must be reconsidered. It is said you cannot do the same thing and expect different results”.
So, in the clear opinion of the EC'S own Panel, the process of cleaning the register through the Exhibition of the register is simply not viable and not adequate.
The Panel report continues on pages 20 and 21: “It seems that doing nothing more than the usual updating and waiting for the citizenry to pursue those who are illegally registered, will engender the most bloated register, by the mere fact that very few of the names are likely to be brought up.
Generally, it might be difficult to justify leaving more than half a million invalid records in the register that we seek to characterize as credible."
In other words, the EC's own panel of experts rejects the process of Exhibition as not viable in cleaning a bloated register, as the process amounts to a mere updating of records, that will still leave over 500,000 invalid names in the register.
The question then is, what does the panel of experts then recommend? The committee's recommendation to correct such a bloated register is contained in pages 20-21 of its report. It recommends that:
“The Electoral Commission COULD CONSIDER EXTENDING THE EXHIBITION EXERCISE TO HAVE VOTERS CONFIRM THEIR NAMES ON THE LIST, an indication that they would want to maintain their voter status.
The benefits include signaling that the Electoral Commission is doing something about the known flaws in the register; the most cost effective approach is being used.
IN THE SAME WAY THAT A NEW REGISTRATION WOULD HAVE REQUIRED CITIZENS TO PHYSICALLY APPEAR FOR REGISTRATION, THE CLEANING WOULD REQUIRE THAT THEY APPEAR TO CONFIRM.
The major difference is they spend less time because no forms are filled. Rather than make others responsible for maintaining voters names on the list, the individuals should themselves do that. This also avoids the issue of people looking for documents to support any claim to get a record removed.”
So in the clear words of the Panel, the Exhibition should be turned from a process of voters appearing at polling stations to merely update their records, into a confirmation process where voters will go to confirm their records.
The panel insists this process will signal that the EC is doing something concrete to clean the known flaws in the register, in a very cost effective way; and would have the same effect of cleaning as a process of compiling a new register would, at much less expense, and at much less time.
The Panel insists strongly that backed by the necessary enabling legislation, their recommended confirmation process is vastly superior to the Exhibition process advocated by the EC, and compares very favourably to the process of compiling a new register.
This in essence is the process recommended by the EC's own Committee/ Panel of experts as best process under our circumstances for cleaning our bloated voters register.
To sum up, the EC'S own Panel recommended that:
There should be legislation that will turn the Exhibition into a confirmation process, which will require voters to appear to confirm their names, and those who fail to do so will not deem dead or otherwise not eligible to vote in the 2016 elections.
The Panel itself uses words such as "confirm ", "Confirmation “and “validate" in its report. The NPP use the word "validate” to describe the process recommended as best by the EC's own Panel.
There has been controversy as to the appropriateness of the word "validate” to describe the process recommended by the EC's own Panel.
This controversy is needless.
For the avoidance of any doubt whatsoever, the NPP states unequivocally that the party fully SUPPORTS the considered option/recommendation by the EC'S own Panel of experts for cleaning the 2016 Voters Register, whatever the description given the process.
The NPP's original position was for the compilation of a new register. The party adduced evidence that have not been controverted to support its position. The EC was not in favour of a new register.
The EC set up the Panel to collate viewpoints and all alternatives and recommend the best way forward. The Panel has done so in its report under reference. The Panel itself deems it's recommendation as a middle way.
What therefore should be the difficulty and controversy? Is there a difficulty on the part of the electoral commission in accepting and building consensus in implementing the faithful, considered recommendation of its own committee set up for that purpose?
The EC will not accept the NPP’s proposal for a new register, despite the strong supporting evidence. Is the EC rejecting the clear proposal of its own committee too?
Is the EC going to deploy the Exhibition process to clean the register, despite its inadequateness as demonstrated by its own committee?
The NPP supports this middle way forward on this all important matter of cleaning Ghana 2016 Voters Register and make it fit for purpose for the elections.
It will be a matter of grave concern and bewilderment if any obstacles are placed in the way of adopting and implementing this middle way recommended by the EC's own Panel /Committee of experts.
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