The Electoral Commission (EC) has outlined safety protocols for its mass voter registration exercise for the December 7, 2020 elections.
Although the EC is yet to announce a new date for the commencement of the exercise, its acting Director of Public Affairs, Mrs Sylvia Annoh stated
In an interview that the safety protocols put in place by the EC would ensure that all prospective registrants and officials were protected from contracting COVID-19.
The opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), however, maintains that the voters register as it stands is credible so there is no need for the EC to compile a new voters register for this year’s general election.
Indicating some of the measures that the EC would put in place for the exercise, Mrs Annoh said, for instance, only 25 people, including registration officials would be permitted at the registration centre at any given time and it would be compulsory to wear a nose mask before entering a registration centre.
Also, the temperature of people would be taken, provision of water and liquid soap for handwashing before one could join a queue.
She explained that in practising social distancing, people in the queue would be required to maintain a minimum of one metre.
According to her, all scanners would be sanitised with alcohol wipes before the fingerprints of people were captured after which those whose details had been captured would also be provided with hand sanitisers to clean their hands before leaving the registration centres.
Mrs Annoh said all officials of the EC would also be in appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) to ensure not just their safety but all those going through the registration exercise.
The measures put in place, she added, would also ensure that there was no crowding at the centres.
She appealed to Ghanaians to be calm with the process as there would be adequate time to register everybody.
The EC had originally fixed April 18, 2020 for the compilation of a new voters register but had to postpone it indefinitely following the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country.
It indicated that the decision would be reviewed in collaboration with health experts.
Although there has been some opposition to the compilation of a new register by some political parties and civil society organisations, the EC has explained that it wants the register to be used on the election day to be more credible and efficient than the existing one, hence the need for a new Biometric Voter Management System (BVMS).
A key new feature the EC cited was the introduction of a facial recognition option in addition to fingerprint verification.
At a press conference at the party’s Headquarters in Accra yesterday, the Director of Elections of the NDC, Mr Elvis Afriyie Ankrah, described the intended compilation of the new register as “needless, illogical and wasteful,” indicating that the party would employ all legitimate means to stop the EC from going ahead with the exercise.
Mr Afriyie Ankrah said the exclusion of the existing Voters ID Card from the list of registration requirements provided under the proposed Constitutional Instrument (CI) was unconstitutional and unreasonable.
“The point has to be made that the existing voters ID card is the most widely available identification document in Ghana with over 16 million holders and has been upheld by the Supreme Court of Ghana as the best prima facie evidence of voter eligibility in the Abu Ramadan Case.
“It is the identification document with the strictest, most rigorous and transparent acquisition procedure and has been used in the compilation of all voter registers since the inception of the Fourth Republic,” he stated.
Mr Afryie Ankrah also argued that the EC’s quest to register about 17 to 18 million Ghanaians in 40 days was unrealistic, notwithstanding the increasing confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country.
“The EC said they will do social distancing of 25 people. You cannot determine the number of people coming from their homes because you will be clustering about five to eight polling stations. What about people who will cluster outside?
“You said your people would wear personal protective equipment (PPE). What about the citizens? What about the people going to help the eligible voters with the thumbprint? Will they not come into close contact with people?
“We foresee a situation where if they attempt to do it, it is going to be chaotic. There will be confusion all across the country. If they persist, the COVID-19 cases are going to blow out of proportion, but God forbid,” he added.
Responding to questions concerning the possibility of a limited voter registration, the National Communications Officer of the NDC, Mr Sammy Gyamfi, said data from the Ghana Statistical Service showed that only 600,000 Ghanaians had turned 18 this year.
This, he inferred, that should the country decide not to do a limited registration exercise on grounds of public health, “it does not change much”.
“The voter register we have is made up of 16 million people. If you compare a register of over 16 million Ghanaians and you have only 600,000 who have only turned 18 this year and on grounds of public safety, we decide upon consultations that there is no need for us to take that risk because human lives are irreplaceable. It is okay for us to go into this election with the existing register without a new voters’ registration,” he explained.
“Should we decide with the limited registration exercise to register the 600,000 people who just turned 18 this year, registering 18 million Ghanaians will not involve the same level of risk as compared to just 600,000 people.
“The numbers are relatively low and the risk is relatively lower and you can register such lower numbers without creating fertile ground for the spread of the coronavirus,” he stressed.