New voters’ register: Guarantor system will be abused – CODEO to EC

New voters' register: Guarantor system will be abused - CODEO to EC

The Coalition of Domestic Election Observers (CODEO) has said it is “deeply concerned about the inability of key stakeholders to forge broad consensus over a credible way forward for the compilation of the voters’ register, having regard to the exceptional circumstances brought upon the nation by the COVID-19 pandemic and the extremely compressed electoral calendar”.

In a statement signed by the National Coordinator Albert Kofi Arhin, CODEO said it “remains fully cognizant of the fact that the Electoral Commission (EC) has the fundamental responsibility to deliver credible elections in Ghana”, and affirmed its “longstanding commitment to supporting the Commission to achieve this crucial mandate, through an election management process that fosters inclusivity, national peace and mutual trust between the Commission and key election stakeholders”.

CODEO, however, said “after careful consideration of the critical issues at stake in the preparations toward the December 2020 general elections”, it wishes to draw the attention of the EC to “significant challenges” presented by the following provisions in the Constitutional Instrument (CI) 126, Public Elections (Registration of Voters) Amendment Regulations, 2020:

“a. The provision that proof of eligibility to register to vote can be established only by the production of either a valid Ghanaian passport or a national identification card issued by the National Identification Authority (NIA); that these two are the only legitimate identification documents for proof of eligibility to register to vote in the upcoming registration exercise; and

b. In the absence of either of the two documents specified above, prospective registrants must fill out a ‘guarantor form’ to be endorsed by two ‘registered voters’”.

CODEO said while it acknowledges that this is a matter before the Supreme Court of the land, it also believes that it might be proper for the EC to take a second look at these provisions due to the challenges that they are likely to present to prospective registrants, the Commission itself, and, indeed the electoral process.

“CODEO believes that a good number of eligible Ghanaians do not currently possess either of the two identification cards. Therefore, a substantial number of prospective registrants would be compelled to rely on guarantors to be able to exercise their right to be registered as voters”.

The Coalition said: “In communities where only a few people possess the requisite identity documents, there will be a real difficulty on the part of qualified citizens in exercising their right to register to vote”.

CODEO recalled with “consternation” that there was “abuse of the guarantor system in previous registration exercises (as highlighted in its reports on previous registration exercises it observed) in which some registered voters turned themselves into ‘guarantee contractors’ vouching for the eligibility of all manner of persons who might be, in fact, unqualified to be registered”.

“The same system tended to create extreme tension in the voter registration process, with some political party agents and activists physically preventing persons who lacked the requisite identification documents from registering, sometimes on the basis of mere suspicion”.

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