There was a sharp disagreement yesterday between members of the NPP Majority and the NDC Minority over the Electoral Commission’s (EC) proposed new Constitutional Instrument (C.I.) to replace the existing Instrument (C.I.) in preparation for the election in 2024.
This occurred during the Special Budget Committee’s report on a briefing session on the draft Public Elections (Registration of Voters) Regulations, 2022 and other related matters.
However, the toxic polarisation of the normal back-and-forth of political debate erupted into heated exchanges in the aftermath of a motion moved by Majority Chief Whip, Frank Annoh-Dompreh, and seconded by former Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu, for the adoption of the report.
The Subsidiary Legislation Committee of Parliament had earlier held a pre-laying meeting with the EC to review the new Public Elections (Registration of Voters) Regulations, 2022 and Other Related Matters.
The Committee noted in this new C.I. that the Commission stated its intention to use the Ghana Card, or ECOWAS Card, as commonly referred to, as the only form of identification and medium to qualify a Ghanaian citizen who is eligible to vote, to be registered or enrolled onto the voters’ register.
This observation brought to the fore a number of concerns that were reported to the Leadership of the House.
The Special Budget Committee was directed to further investigate the concerns raised by members of the Subsidiary Legislation Committee during the pre-laying meeting and report to the House during the Business Committee meeting on Friday, July 22, 2022.
The Committee therefore sought clarification on the following two major concerns of the members – the 2022 Budget Performance of the Commission and the new Public Elections (Voters Registration) Regulations and other related Matters, 2022.
The report said the Commission’s Chairperson, Jean Adukwei Mensa, explained that previously, the Commission had allowed a number of options to prove one’s identity during voter registration, including Ghana Passports, previous Voter ID Card, Birth Certificate, Guarantor System, drivers’ licence, and so on.
“However, the Commission in 2021 following the election in 2020, decided to introduce a number of reforms to sanitise and simplify the election processes, including continuous registration of voters and the use of Ghana Card to qualify eligible persons for the EC Voters’ ID Card,” the report indicated.
According to the report, the EC Chairperson explained that in the past, the practice of periodic voter registration exercises had proven to be time-consuming, ineffective, and an expensive process associated with chaos.
This practice does not provide a window for individuals who have travelled outside of the country or who are unable to participate in the exercise when the period was opened, the report noted.
To address these issues, the EC stated its intention to implement the continuous registration process. The Chairperson went on to say that this issue was tabled for discussion at the IPAC, and that there was general support for its adoption.
Concerning the non-use of the guarantor system, the Chairperson informed the Committee that it was introduced 30 years ago in 1992, when the country lacked a common system of identification to allow many eligible persons to be registered or enrolled onto the EC’s Voters’ Register in order to vote.
Concerning the use of the Ghana Card, the Chairperson stated that previously, the Commission had allowed a variety of options to prove one’s identity during voter registration, including Ghana Passports, previous Voter ID Card, Birth Certificate, Guarantor System, drivers’ licence, and so on.
However, following the 2020 election, the Commission decided in 2021 to implement a number of reforms to sanitise and simplify the election processes, including continuous voter registration and the use of the Ghana Card to qualify eligible persons for the EC Voters’ ID Card.
The new C.I., as presented at a pre-laying meeting with the Subsidiary Legislation Committee, basically spells out the Commission’s intentions to do away with the costly periodic registration exercises that had not yielded the expected results over the years and instead embark on an all-year-round registration exercise at the Commission’s offices across the country.
The main goal is to make sure that all of the Commission’s offices are open all year long and, more significantly, to increase accessibility for anyone who turns 18 or has never been registered with the Commission to go to any regional or district office and register or enroll on the Voters Register, the report said.
The report indicated that following the Chairperson’s presentation, the Committee made submissions to be considered by the Commission in reviewing the new C.I. to improve voter registration and the entire electoral processes, including expunging of the guarantor system as part of the reforms.
The Committee implores the EC to be mindful and ensure that no eligible Ghanaian citizen is disenfranchised in the process, by insisting on the use of the Ghana Card as the only medium to qualify a person for registration, it added.
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