Good morning friends from the media, on behalf of the Let My Vote Count Alliance, I wish to express our sincere gratitude to you for honouring our invitation to this press conference. Indeed, throughout the years, LMVCA has enjoyed a cordial working relationship with the media and this has enabled us to propagate our message of ensuring credible elections for the consolidation of democracy in our beloved nation Ghana.
Before we delve into the reasons for this press conference, may I ask that we observe a minute’s silence in honour of our fallen brothers Mr. Justice Adzakumah and Mr. Ernest Yeboah who were both an integral part of the demonstration held on 16th September, 2015 to call for a new voters’ register. Owing to the brutalities unleashed on the peaceful demonstrators, both men suffered varying degrees of injuries which eventually led to their demise.
Ladies and gentlemen, the call for a new register is not new in our political discourse. As far back as 2015/2016, the LMVCA, together with other Civil Society Organizations and Pressure Groups, initiated the call for the Electoral Commission of Ghana (EC) to compile a new voters’ register.
It is significant to note that since the dawn of the Fourth Republic in 1992, electoral reforms instituted by the EC have often, if not always, been at the behest of political parties, civil society organizations, pressure groups and even individuals. The transition from the use of opaque ballot boxes to transparent ballot boxes; the introduction of photo ID cards and the use of biometric data in registration are all reforms that were initiated by persons outside of the EC. However, today, the call for a new voters’ register emanates from the EC itself, the body mandated by Article 46 of the Constitution 1992 as the election management body of Ghana.
We appreciate the fact that the EC has not remained static but has heeded to the input of stakeholders and its own internal processes to evolve drastically to conform with modern trends and best practices in election management.
As stated earlier, in 2015/2016, the call by the LMVCA and its allies for an entirely new voters register was initiated by citizens who had valid cause to believe that the register had shortcomings that could adversely affect the credibility of elections. This notwithstanding, our engagements with the EC and other stakeholders for a new voters’ register were fiercely resisted by the election management body as well as some political parties, notable among which was the National Democratic Congress (NDC).
So fierce was the resistance to the demand for a new voters’ register that on that fateful day, 16th September, 2015 when the LMVCA and its allies took to the streets of Accra to reiterate the need for a new voters’ register, the Police unleashed unrestrained brutalities on citizens whose only crime was to exercise their civil liberties and constitutional freedom of association as enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution 1992. Indeed, 16th September, 2015 will go down as one of the darkest days in the political history of our beloved nation Ghana. Once again, we wish to commiserate with our fallen heroes and our brothers and sisters who suffered permanent injuries as a result of the barbaric brutalities we suffered at the hands of the Police under the erstwhile NDC administration.
After several street protests, agitations, consultations and sustained legitimate pressure, the EC found it expedient to set up the Justice VCRAC Crabbe Committee with the mandate to investigate and critically examine the concerns of the credibility of the voters’ register. To our dismay and utter disappointment, the final report of the committee was nothing short of a window dressing which sought to corroborate and confirm what was in our opinion, the ill-thought position of the EC that a new voters’ register was unnecessary.
A significant shortcoming of the register was the inclusion of persons who registered using National Health Insurance Cards (NHIS) cards which are not limited to only citizens, but are available to all residents of Ghana. Consequently, the voters register included names of persons who were merely resident in Ghana and not necessarily citizens who were qualified to vote in our elections. This was confirmed by the ruling of the Supreme Court of Ghana in Abu Ramadan & Evans Nimako v EC & AG in 2016 in which the Court held that the NHIS Card was not a valid form of ID for voter registration, the court further directed the EC to expunge from the voters register the names of all persons who registered with the NHIS Card. The LMVCA maintains that this has not been effectively carried out by the EC thereby rendering the current voters register bloated and not fit for purpose.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the media, I wish to state emphatically that in spite of the stiff opposition we faced in our bid to compel the EC to compile a new voters register, the LMVCA blazed the trail in sensitizing political parties and the electorate to be vigilant and to be actively involved in the electoral processes. Indeed, the success story of the non-contestable elections result of December 2016 is to a large extent attributable to the sustained education and involvement of the LMVCA before, during and immediately after the elections.
Today, we are gathered here not to call for a new voters’ register, but to commend the EC for finally corroborating our long-held position of the need to compile a new voters’ register. This decision was reached after a period of introspection and a series of internal arrangements led by the election management body to conclude that indeed, it is necessary to compile a new voters’ register. This is long overdue.
Ironically, the announcement of the compilation of a new voters’ register has again been met with fierce resistance from some civil society organizations and political parties prominent among them , which is the NDC.
Nevertheless, the EC maintains that a new voters register is necessary in order to ensure credible elections. Prominent among its justifications for a new electoral roll is the fact that the data is controlled solely by the vendor and not the EC. Furthermore, the EC has stated that there is a myriad of technical challenges in the management, maintenance and operation of the Biometric Verification Devices which hinder the smooth running of elections. We believe that the EC must therefore acquire modern technology that addresses these shortcomings. It is also authoritative to note , parliament has approved the budget of the EC in that regard
The LMVCA admonishes the EC to undertake an effective registration exercise similar to what was undertaken in 2012 and 2008 both election years. Indeed, in 2012, with a few months to the elections, the EC created 45 new constituencies. Yet, this did not adversely affect the electoral process.
In conclusion, the LMVCA fully supports the emphatic decision by the EC to compile a new voters’ register. The technical challenges and the fact that the vendor has exclusive access to the data are issues of national importance that make the call for a new voters’ register not only expedient, but absolutely necessary.
Much as we believe that demonstrations and civil protests are part of the democratic dispensation, we appreciate the finality brought to this issue by the decisive steps of the EC through definite and comprehensive timelines for the compilation of the new voters register. That is a decisive step that the citizenry and electorate must respect and uphold.
We encourage all citizens, 18 years and above, to actively participate in the registration process to get their names on the voters roll and to police the process to ensure fairness and transparency. *Do not be swayed by the purported resistance of the NDC toward the registration exercise. For history has shown that while they openly reject the new voters register, they will secretly mobilize their supporters to register en masse for the new voters register.*
Be assured that the Let My Vote Count Alliance will not renege in our commitment to credible elections. We will therefore closely monitor the registration process for the benefit of our democracy.
A new voters register must now and long overdue
Let My Vote Count: Don’t Destroy Our Democracy.