The Electoral Commission (EC) has stated that it will not compile a new register for the 2024 elections.
Rather, the commission said it would begin an all-year-round limited registration exercise for only people who would turn 18 years and persons who had not previously registered as voters.
The Chairperson of the EC, Jean Mensa, who made this known to the Daily Graphic yesterday, said the continuous registration exercise being rolled out by the commission must not be misunderstood as compilation of an entirely fresh voters register.
“I want to state emphatically that the EC will not create a new register. We have previously registered over 17 million voters and have all their details and features. Besides, we have not made any provision for a new register in our 2023 budget,” she stressed.
She urged members of the public to disregard suggestions by some individuals and groups that the new Constitutional Instrument (C.I) the commission had sent to Parliament would lead to the creation of a new register.
Mrs Mensa spoke to the Daily Graphic against the backdrop of information making the rounds that the commission was making a subtle attempt to compile a new voters’ register for the next general election.
The EC placed before Parliament a C.I. to guide its processes ahead of the conduct of the 2024 presidential and parliamentary elections.
The Public Elections (Registration of Voters) Instrument, 2022, seeks to make the Ghana card the sole document for the registration of voters.
Some persons, including the Minority in Parliament, have raised red flags that the use of the Ghana card as the sole document would disenfranchise many eligible Ghanaians since some of them have not got their cards.
Following those concerns, officials of the EC and the National Identification Authority (NIA) were summoned to a special committee in Parliament to respond to issues on the use of the Ghana card for voter registration.
Mrs Mensa assured members of the public that the EC would not roll out a voter registration regime that sought to deprive any Ghanaian the right to vote. She said the use of Ghana card was rather meant to make the voters register more credible to guarantee integrity of elections.
Touching on the EC’s plan to use its district offices across the country as the registration center for the continuous registration exercise, she said the move would not disenfranchise any eligible Ghanaian as was being speculated.
People who make the argument that the use of district offices of the EC would disenfranchise Ghanaians have cited long distances and cost of travel to the centres as their justification.
However, the EC Chairperson said the Commission had made adequate arrangements to cater for hard-to-access districts.
“When we were doing mass registration of voters in 2020, we used our district offices to register lactating mothers, persons with disabilities (PWDs) and the aged, and the system worked perfectly.”
“Having the registration at district offices will not disenfranchise anyone. The EC knows that some districts are hard to reach for some people and we will look at such situations and adjust with appropriate arrangements,” she said.
She added that since the registration was not for a limited period, potential registrants would not be under any pressure to register with the Commission.
“Anyone who turns 18 only needs to go to their district office of the EC to register and they will be placed in polling stations near to them,” she added.
Mrs Mensa cautioned persons whose names were already on the poll book to stay away from the continuous registration exercise, as any attempt to register again would constitute double registration, to which sanctions would apply.
“If registered voters turn up at registration centres to register again, the system will identify them because we have biometrics, fingerprints, facial recognition and other details. Sanctions will apply on such people,” she said.
Since the beginning of the Fourth Republic in 1992, the Electoral Commission, the country’s constitutional electoral body, has periodically compiled voters registers for the conduct of elections. In between the wholesale voter registration, the commission organises limited voter registration exercises to capture new voters onto the poll book. The latest wholesale voter registration exercise was carried out in 2020, which saw the registration of over 17 million eligible voters.
With the nationwide rollout of the Ghana card by the NIA, the EC is seeking to rely on the Ghana card as the sole document for registering new voters, having declared the current voters register as a living document that only needs to be updated instead of compiling a fresh register.
The EC is of the view that the use of the Ghana card for voter registration presents an opportunity to scrap the guarantor system that had been used as a means of identifying potential eligible voters over the past three decades.
On September 11, 2022, the EC announced that it would switch from limited voter registration to continuous voter registration, beginning this year. The EC chairperson had explained that the continuous voter registration exercise would ensure an all-year-round registration of Ghanaians who turn 18 years and those who had not been previously registered. She had also said the new regime meant that eligible prospective registrants would go to a district office of the commission to be registered as voters.