Today, in any election (be it assembly elections or general elections), it is not just your right but also your duty to vote. But, to vote you need a valid voter ID card. In a democracy, you need to exercise your franchise as that is the only way you can participate in the national decision making. The voter ID card is issued to all Ghanaian citizens who have reached the age of adult franchise which is 18 years of age.
We’ve heard many opinions about the Electoral commission’s decision to make only Ghana Card, passport admissible for new voters’ registration. The EC’s director of elections, Dr Serebour, is on record to have said, there are some non- Ghanaians holding Ghanaian passport. Foreigners have been arrested holding Ghanaian passports that is one danger. Proof of citizenship and age are important requirements when registering voters.
Apart from voter registration, another factor is who can be sworn in as President of Ghana. According to Chapter 8, Article 62 of the 1992 constitution of Ghana, a person shall not be qualified for election as the President of Ghana unless :
-(a) he/she is a citizen of Ghana by birth
-(b) he/she has attained the age of forty years.
Constitutionally, the qualifications of persons aspiring to enter into Parliament is also explicitly enshrined in the 1992 Constitution of Ghana. In Article 94 (a), the it states: “He/She is a citizen of Ghana, has attained the age of twenty-one (21) years and is a registered voter.
These show the importance the framers of the 1992 constitution attached to the issue about age and citizenship status. During the 2008 Presidential election in the United States, some people asserted that Barack Obama was not a natural-born U S citizen, as mandated by the constitution of the country and said, thus was ineligible to be President of the United States. This prompted several states legislatures to consider legislation aimed at requiring future presidential candidates to show proof of presidential eligibility before being granted ballot access in their states. Passport was not the document Barack Obama used to clear himself.
In Ghana, Jerry Rawlings faced same challenge when he decided to lead the NDC in the 1992 election. His citizenship status was challenged. I will respectively entreat the noble supreme court Judges and the Electoral commission to read the full judgement to know why and how the court ruled in favour of Chairman Rawlings and declared him eligible to contest.
When it comes to the issue of age, the birth certificate is the most reliable document. People fabricate their age when preparing other documents including passports, National Health Insurance Card, National ID card etc. This is usually done with the intention to garner privileges or status that would not otherwise be available to that person (I.e minor misrepresenting their age in order to garner the privileges given to adult). It may be done through the use of oral or written statements or through the altering, doctoring or forging of vital records. On some occasions, age is increased so as to make cut offs for minimum legal or employment age in showbusiness or professional sports.
How can we cure this mischief?
Is the passport the most reliable document we could use to cure the mischief? or, the National ID card. It is the right of every child to get an identity, his name and right to acquire nationality. Every child’s birth must be recorded in the civil register by the government through the birth and death department. It provides the first legal recognition of the child and is generally required for the child to obtain a birth certificate and as result any other legal document and rights. The issuance of a birth certificate is consistent with the Convention on the Rights of the Child that states that every child should be registered immediately after birth. And in all societies a birth certificate is a basic legal document that gives identity to a child, and automatically bestows a number of rights such as right to health care, nationality, schooling, passport, property ownership, voting, formal employment etc.
The systematic neglect of civil registration and vital statistics over the years should not disenfranchise eligible voters. Where did monies from donor community for the preparation of reliable vital statistics go? These are the vital issues the supreme court Judges must consider when dealing with the issue about citizens right to vote. The system’s failure to do what is right should not suffocate the innocent citizens.
How many Ghanaians have Ghanaian passport? How many eligible Ghanaian voters have the National ID card? And how clean, authentic and reliable are these documents when it comes to personal information captured in them. If we play political chess game with this crucial issue or fail to look beyond the present, there will come a day a foreigner holding authentic Ghanaian documents will become the President of the country or, enter our Parliament.
A voter ID card is issued to a Ghanaian citizen by the Electoral commission of Ghana which act as a proof of his/ her citizenship and allow them to cast their vote during elections. We have used it for many transactions and official documentation including our bank records etc. Is its invalidation going to affect the existing records?.
THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC AND THE NIA REGISTRATION : The religious bodies response to the easing of restrictions by the President shows that Ghanaians have come to terms with the reality when it comes to the havoc the covid-19 pandemic is causing. Some Churches and Moslems decision not to converge in their large numbers for service should send a signal to government, the NIA and the Electoral commission. Most Ghanaians will not go to the registration centers for fear of getting infected. That genuine fear of contracting the disease if they join queues at the registration centers should not deny them the right to vote when there are other options available to help them. Lack of interest in the process is likely to be prevalent across the country and the number of disenfranchised voters will be potentially high. How do we determine what percentage of those who might have gone to register if the covid-19 was not around?
CONCLUSION: The onus to ensure that safe environment is created for registration of voters and arouse the public’s interest in the exercise is entirely on the government. Obstacles Ghanaians face in getting passports and the NIA card will automatically result in low number of registered Ghanaians for the coming election. If we pay attention to the importance of civil documents such as birth certificates, the enthusiasm to get this important document will increase.