The Danquah Institute has called on the Electoral Commission to suspend next month’s planned registration of new voters and rather concentrate on auditing the voters’ register.
According to the governance and policy think tank, the evidence presented in the Supreme Court during the presidential election petition in 2013 showed that the EC was not on top of issues when it came to double registration in the voters’ register.
It said the only logical step now was for a comprehensive audit to be conducted on the current register to ascertain its credibility.
District level elections are to be held before the end of this year and the EC has planned to register new voters between June 20 and June 29, 2014 under what is described as a limited registration exercise, which is normally done before any election.
During the period, the voters register would be opened purposely for people who had attained the age of 18 since the last registration exercise in 2012 and others above 18 who, for one reason or another, could not register in 2012.
In the past, during such exercises, some people who already had their names in the register registered again but this time around, the EC has said it has a system to detect registered voters who would attempt to register again and warned that offenders would be drastically dealt with.
Already, the EC has increased the number of polling stations from 26,000 to 35,000 as part of its preparations for the smooth conduct of district level elections.
It has also procured more biometric verification devices (BVDs), and plans to put two BVDs at the disposal of each polling station during the upcoming elections.
However, at a press conference in Accra Thursday afternoon, Mr Boakye Agyarko, a fellow of the Danquah Institute said the EC ought to initiate steps such as a complete audit of the voters register to repair its credibility, before any further registration of new voters was 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,” he said.
“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,” he said.
The Electoral Commission through a Deputy Chairperson, Georgina Opoku Amankwa, recently acknowledged at a public forum that it has not been “biting” in the previous time but this time it will “bite” and that anyone who was found to have double-registered, “would be sorry”.
But addressing the press conference in Accra, Mr Agyarko argued that, it was amply demonstrated in court that “all is not well with Ghana’s register”, adding that “the petitioners in the case proved this point beyond all reasonable doubt.”
He explained that it was proven beyond all reasonable doubt in court that there were multiple registrations contained in the biometric voter register and that the actual total of registered voters in the country was still in doubt, and also the fact that different voter registers were apparently used for the Presidential and Parliamentary elections.
“It is recalled that the total number of registered voters that the EC furnished the NPP with was 14,031,680.”
“Subsequently, on Sunday, 9th December 2012, the EC declared the total number of registered voters as 14,158,890.”
“Furthermore, on the same date, the EC posted on its website the total number of registered voters as 14,031,793.”
“The Chairman of the EC, during the trial, could not provide cogent reasons for this discrepancy,” he said.
He continued, “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 127,210 voters.”
“It was also proven 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 fake identities,” Mr Agyarko recounted.
“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,” he stated.
Mr Boakye Agyarko also quoted from statements made by Dr Afari Gyan in the run up to the 2008 elections, about the statistical acceptability of voter registers across the world.
According to Dr Afari Gyan in 2008, in an interview with Joy FM “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.”
Boakye Agyarko explained that as per Dr Afari Gyan’s assertions in 2008, a voter register containing 12,472,758 out of a population of 22 million persons which represents a percentage of 56.69per cent was statistically unacceptable, then a 56.20per cent voter population in 2012 was clearly statistically unacceptable.
“Nigeria, which has a population of 162,470,737 has a voter population of 67,764,327, representing 41.7per cent. Kenya, with a population of 41,609,728 has a voter population of 14,362,189 representing 34.50per cent. Tanzania, with 42.50per cent and Senegal with 41.50per cent 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 47.9per cent of the total population.”
“Why is Ghana’s percentage so high? One does not need rocket science to tell us that there is something fundamentally wrong with our voters’ register.” he stressed.