The opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) is not backing down any time soon with its resolve to get the Electoral Commission (EC) to rescind its decision to compile a new voters’ register ahead of the 2020 general elections.
The party’s Deputy Director of Research, Mr Kale Caeser has described the EC’s adamance about going for a new electoral roll without opening up for discussion with stakeholders as “injurious” to the peace of the country.
Speaking on Power 97.9 FM’s news analysis programme, Weekend Focus, hosted by Kwame Minkah, the former deputy Upper West regional minister stated that the exercise is a “useless adventure” because the timing is wrong.
The EC has already announced modalities for the compilation of a new voters’ register which begins on April 18, 2020 to the end of May. The electoral management body has also announced a planned meeting between the Eminent Advisory Committee and the Inter Party Advisory Committee (IPAC) scheduled for Thursday to iron out concerns raised over the exercise.
But Mr Caeser argues that the Jean Mensa-led EC is acting in bad faith, especially when it announced a date for the compilation before involving the IPAC.
“The EC didn’t discuss thoroughly with the political parties before going ahead to procure a new system and devices to compile a new register, ” he lamented.
He also argued that the exercise is expensive and will not inure to the benefit of the people since the existing register can be audited and cleaned, adding that spoilt devices can be repaired or replaced rather than “throwing the whole register at the expense of the tax payer.”
This comes after the Inter-Party Resistance against the New Voters Register — a group of political parties which the NDC is part of— organised two mammoth demonstrations in Tamale and Kumasi respectively to pile up pressure on the EC to halt the processes of compiling a new register for the December polls.
But the EC and the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) have vehemently defended the compilation of the new electoral roll, raising questions of the possibility of rigging in the elections later this year.
The NDC believes the possibility of a credible new register is low because it will be done in a rush.
A former National Identification Authority Director (NIA) Boss, Dr William Ahadzie, has also backed the NDC’s call to stop the compilation of a new roll, stressing that it is a recipe for chaos before and during the polls because operational challenges will be encountered.
In a statement, Mr Ahadzie pointed out that, “embarking a new Biometric voter registration exercise is ill advised” and added that it will fail.
His reasons are that, Biometric registration is a “massive field operation” which involves “the recruitment, training and deployment of large numbers of workstation operators, technicians, drivers and other ancillary personnel on a large scale concurrently.”
He also because it involves the movement of a large volume of logistics at the same time and “more intense than voting operations” the EC should have been more meticulous in taking such a decision especially since April and May is a rainy season.
“There are numerous natural, technical and even cultural factors that frustrate the smooth enrolment process. Dont forget April /May marks the beginning of the rainy season. I am not convinced EC can mobilise the numbers required to get the job done in less than 2 months neither can it control against the likely disruptions by the forces of nature and culture,” he added.
Below is Mr Ahadzie’s statement;
Operational challenges of the New Voters’ Register.
There is enough technical, economic and adminstrative reason out there which suggests that embarking a new Biometric voter registrstion exercise is ill advised. But the EC is diffident and is determined to proceed with creating the new roll. For me, it is clear the EC is unaware of the enormity of the field-based operational challenges that lie ahead
I became even more alarmed on hearing that the EC plans to use less than two months to register 10 million voters (out of a possible registrable population of over 17 million). Why cap it? Even worse is the fact that the exercise will commence as late as April this year. For the following reasons, I know the exercise will fail.
1. Biometric registrstion is a massive field operation. It involves the recruitment, training and deployment of large numbers of workstation operators, technicians, drivers and other ancillary personnel on a large scale concurrently. It also involves movement of a large volume of logistics at the same time. It is more intense than voting operations. There are numerous natural, technical and even cultural factors that frustrate the smooth enrolment process. Dont forget April /May marks the beginning of the rainy season. I am not convinced EC can mobilise the numbers required to get the job done in less than 2 months neither can it control against the likely disruptions by the forces of nature and culture.
2. The capture of biometric data and the instant issuance of a card
require a wide and sufficiently fast bandwidth on a dedicated VPN. This
will enable simultaneous back and forth data movement between all the
workstations and the main server for purposes of de-duplication and the
issuance of the card, while the registrant is still before the Operator
or the Registration officer. In other words, to ensure that an applicant
does not already exist in the database, every single registrant’s data
will be sent to the server from each workstation to be matched against
all existing biometric data (1 to 1 and 1 to many matching) and the
result returned to the workstations in REALTIME. If there is no match
the applicant is cleared and a card is issued. If it is queried, the
registration is suspended and investigated later by technicians. This
requires time and it could take more than two weeks by which time the
Registration team may have moved to another location. Several voters
could easily be disenfranchised this way.
A related problem is the risk of a jam and slow down of the verification process due to heavy data traffic on the network. This extends the average time required to register one person. Such frustrated applicants create chaos at the centres and further slow the process. Daily registration targets WILL BE MISSED and this will affect the overall target.
3. An illegal Registration Business typically develops during mass registration exercises, especially when time is running out. Some unscrupulous Registration officers deliberately slow the process and create conditions for BLACK MARKET registration. This in some cases, involves waiving all or most of the requirements or eligibility criteria. Cards could be issued without the appropriate background data and this can make verification difficult on election day. A recipe for disaster.
4. Given the short time that will be allotted for registration, there will be unduly long queues at each station. Such long queues come with their own problems and frustrations. Eager applicants risk their lives to go and queue at dawn and some even sleep at Registration centres without security They become victims of armed robberies and other forms of assault. Such frustration typically cause some applicants to completely abandon the effort to register. That’s a case of denying them their voting rights.
5. Breakdown of equipment. Not all new equipment will work perfectly even if certified ok. The rain, wind, dust and unnecessary exposure to the sun can cause breakdown. And sometimes the down time is caused by wrong use by the operator.
6. There’s also the vexed issue of challenges. In this politically volatile environment, there will be deliberate schemes to challenge the eligibility of applicants by political activists, with the sole purpose of reducing the numbers of their political opponents on the New Register. Such situations can spark uncontrollable violence at Registration centres and perhaps spread across the country. Politicisation of the lead up to the Registration process is already manifest and would undoubtedly increase during the actual registrstion exercise, should EC begin it.
All these field based factors will adversely affect this pressure cooker generated registration process. The EC has no time for extension and may be compelled to ABORT the exercise midstream. That will have dire consequences for the country especially if they have already decommissioned the current database.
I urge the EC to heed advice and avoid plunging Ghana into violent conflict. Clearly, the decision to proceed runs against popular sentiments and flies in the face of rational judgement. We should not trade the peace of Ghana for ego trips.