In a fresh blow to the Electoral Commission’s plan to compile a new biometric voters register, some 18 civil society organizations say it is unnecessary.
At a press conference in Accra Thursday, the pro-democracy groups are united in their view that the current register only needs to be updated for the November 2020 general elections.
“We believe that the EC has not demonstrated that there is a defect with the biometric data which was used as recently as 2 months ago on a nationwide scale”, a statement read.
Who are these CSOs?
The CSOs include the Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition (GACC), IMANI Africa, SEND Ghana, Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), Institute for Democratic Governance (IDEG), Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII) and Women in Law and Development in Africa (WiLDAF).
The group maintains, it is unnecessary to spend $70 million on mass registration exercise.
What are their reasons?
The seven-page statement provides at least 10 reasons to back its position and has challenged the Electoral Commission to debate them on the issues.
- The group says has pointed to the technical vulnerability of the current register, it has failed to demonstrate that the existing one is defective. They say it is not good enough for the EC to base its position solely on the view of one vendor.
- The group also cast doubt on the cost implications of refurbishing the existing BVD and BVR tablets. The EC has said it will cost
|BVR (Biometric Voters Register Kits)||$5145||$3500|
|BVD (Biometric Verification Device)||$917||$244|
But the group argued, its checks show the average cost of a BVD is $160 while the average BVR tablet is $750.
The high quotation provided by the EC is because it is listening to a single vendor, STL which currently manages Ghana’s electoral data, the CSOs said.
For the CSOs, the entire cost of a new register could be less than $15million and not the $36million estimated by the Electoral Commission.
- The CSOs also pointed out the Electoral Commission (EC) is not the be-all and end-all in the area of compiling a register. That space must be ceded to the National Identification Authority (NIA) as the compiling agency for data on citizens.
The NIA is at an advanced stage of issuing biometric identity cards for Ghanaians known as the Ghana Card. The NIA has covered some 10 out of the country’s 16 regions.
The CSO argue it is only the NIA which is permitted by law to compile such data about citizens for use by other governmental organisations such as the EC.
What are the political implications of the CSOs position?
The opposition National Democratic Congress would find this position, an endorsement of theirs.
On January 10, 2020, a group, the Coalition of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) for Good Governance organized a public forum where leading members of the main opposition rejected the new voter’s register plan.
Speakers included People’s National Convention (PNC) Chairman, Bernard Mornah and veteran journalist, Kwesi Pratt Jnr who called the new register proposal “useless.”
Since then, the group with the active participation by the NDC has organised a demonstration in Tamale in the Northern region with plans to have it in other cities.
Summary of the arguments of the pro-new voter’s register group
Not to be outdone, the governing New Patriotic Party has mobilised 13 other minor political parties into a group backing the Electoral Commission’s plan.
The parties are the New Patriotic Party (NPP), Liberal Party of Ghana (LPG), National Democratic Party (NDP), People’s National Congress (PNC), United Front Party (UPP), Yes People’s Party (YPP), Democratic People’s Party (DPP).
The rest are the Great Consolidated Popular Party (GCPP), Reformed Patriotic Democrats (RDP), New Vision Party (NVP), Ghana Freedom Party (GFP), United Love Party (ULP), and Convention People’s Party (CPP).
- They have argued that the EC has the sole responsibility for organising elections. explaining that Article 51 mandates the EC to make regulations for the effective performance of its functions.
The Electoral Commission should be getting cooperation from stakeholders, not direction or control.
“Political parties are however free to make suggestions and recommendations to the Commission for its consideration and possible adoption.” their statement read.
- The pro-new voter’s register group said the practice has been that a new register is compiled after every eight years. A new register in 2020 fits the trend.
- They also dismiss the argument that if the current register was used in the local level elections is it good enough for the 2020 general elections.
Describing this argument as “comparing apples with oranges,” Kofi Akpaloo who read the position of the group said, “district assembly elections is nowhere comparable with what we often see during general elections.”
There is far less pressure during the local level elections than there is in the general elections, he said.
- He boasted that their position has the popular support of 16 out of 21 registered political parties.
- Although the 18 CSO described the current register as the “most advanced”, the pro-new voter’s register group complain that
“The current Biometric Verification Device (BVD) is unable to verify a number of voters electronically resulting in a high number of manual verification on voting day, which is largely unreliable and a potential source of dispute
“To make matters worse, the current biometric architecture does not have a facial recognition technology nor does it allow for a facial recognition add-on to be added.”
With the involvement of fairly neutral CSOs, the Electoral Commission would find itself under pressure to win over skeptics in this debate.
The EC has an Eminent Advisory Committee chaired by retired Supreme Court judge, Justice Francis Emile Short.
That committee has called a meeting between the EC and the Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC).
The Thursday meeting is to deliberate on issues concerning the plan to compile a new voters register.
Read full statement by the CSOs