The current state of the ongoing Limited Voter Registration according to the main opposition party, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) is in shambles.
This is as a result of the widespread failure of the VMS equipment in the majority of the district centres due to reasons such as poor internet connectivity, power outages and poorly or improperly trained personnel to operate the equipment.
Therefore, the party has been vindicated because leading to the commencement of the limited registration exercise, the National Democratic Congress raised several red flags which they believed if not addressed may adversely impact on the success of the exercise.
“Most of the issues we raised were fiercely ignored and treated with contempt by the Jean Mensah – Bossman Asare led Electoral Commission”.
This was disclosed by the General Secretary of the party, Mr. Asiedu Nketia at the party’s headquarters during his interaction with the Press in Accra on the massive challenges and irregularities of the ongoing Limited Voter Registration exercise by the Electoral Commission.
The Limited Voter Registration exercise by the Electoral Commission is to enable citizens who have turned the age of voting.that is first time voters to get their names on the Registers’ Voter list.
This is to afford them the opportunity to exercise their franchise in the upcoming Assembly elections as well as the general elections in 2020.
Speaking further, the scribe indicated that, this has led to the abandonment of the online registration process in several districts throughout the country.
Though the commission has responded by deploying an unknown number of BVR equipment to various centres, he said this was done without prior notice to political parties and other stakeholders; therefore making it difficult for political parties to track the movement of the equipment to avoid misapplication.
“The deployment of the BVR equipment did not follow any predetermined formula known and accepted by stakeholders to give assurance of political neutrality in the distribution of the equipment” adding “We have received reports from our strongholds that some areas are being underserved either deliberately or inadvertently, whiles the strongholds of our opponent have been over-served, with its obvious consequences”.
Citing Dormaa West Constituency where there was no registration on the first day, due to the poor network for the VMS system (online) and the non-availability of any BVR equipment complementation.
‘General mosquito’ as he is known in the optical circles revealed that, the party strongly raised issues with the setting of targets by the Electoral Commission in relation to the expected number of qualified voters to be registered, insisting on the need for a reliable population data from the Ghana Statistical Service.
Indicating that, they were of the opinion that, sufficient statistical data will be indispensable in the accurate planning of procurement and deployment of electoral materials, as well as the effective planning of an efficient distribution of registration centres across the country.
Therefore believed that, such information was going to be critical for the assessment of the success or otherwise of the exercise at the end of the registration period.
To that effect, the NDC he said subsequently requested for and obtained the data from the Ghana Statistical Service to assist the EC in the planning process, but this data was flatly rejected by the Commission.
Secondly, “We indicated that the VMS system (Online system) which were already fixed in the District offices of the EC throughout the country, were not designed for mass registration and for which reason any attempt to deploy it for that purpose will generate functionality challenges, this advice was also flatly ignored by the Commission”, he asserted.
Also, to ensure the smoothness effectiveness of the exercise, the NDC he says insisted that the registration must be decentralized to the Electoral area level using the BVR kits (offline systems), as has been the practice in the previous exercises but EC having failed to service the BVR kits for no reasonable cause after parliament had made money available for the purpose, turned round to declare that the BVR equipment obsolete and therefore no longer fit to be used for the registration exercise.
Following the public sympathy generated for the NDCs position against the commission’s decision to restrict the registration exercise to the District offices of the EC, citing the attendant hardship and impediments it could place on potential registrants, the commission responded by promising to provide buses to convey all such registrants from their villages to the district centres for registration.
This claim which was made in an interview on Citi FM was flatly denied by the Commission at a subsequent IPAC meeting held less than 3 weeks to the start of the exercise.
However stated that, they will rather deploy some limited number of BVR kits to areas considered remote and inaccessible from District Capitals.
“When we sought information on the proposed number of BVR kits to be deployed, the EC told the meeting that they were yet to evaluate the 7000 BVR kits to determine those that are in working condition based upon which a decision would be made about the additional number of registration centers to be created to complement the 250 proposed district centers”, he revealed.
Adding that, they also raised an issue with the possible challenges that could arise with the deployment of two different systems or technologies for the registration of voters in the same exercise which they were again ignored with contempt.
According to the NDC General Secretary, When the NDC requested for a definite target for the registration exercise, the EC first mentioned that about 300,000 qualified voters will be registered but later adjusted it to 500,000 and subsequently announced 700,000 at a Press Conference 2 days after the registration exercise had started.
“We pointed out that lack of specificity on the registration target could result in under or over procurement of registration materials which may lead to shortages or excesses in the supply of registration materials in certain areas, opening the Commission up for all manner of accusation including deliberate attempt to either suppress or enhance the voter population in particular strongholds of political parties”, he reteriated.
Adding, “the NDC expressed serious misgivings about the commission approaching an important exercise such as the compilation of voter register through guess work, instead of scientifically determined figures, the commission responded in a rather bizarre manner, indicating in a radio interview that the NDC is an existential threat to Ghana’s democracy”,he noted.
With regards to monitoring of the exercise to ensure sanity, he explained that, the established system for monitoring of registration exercises by political parties has been the deployment of registration agents to help prevent unqualified persons (under-aged and foreigners) from registering as voters.
Therefore said the NDC as a party made the point that this approach will be greatly hampered and severely compromised if the registration proceeded at district centers, without clearly defining to the knowledge of all political parties through a gazette notification of the additional registration centres to be designated by the commission as required by law (CI 91).
“In furtherance of the interest of the NDC, the party deployed agents and monitoring teams from constituency as well as regional officers to all the district centers to monitor the exercise in their various areas of jurisdiction”, the NDC scribe revealed.
Adding that, a call center was set up by the party at the Headquarters to receive reports from all over the country about the progress of the exercise.
The issues identified and the reports received he said includes poor and haphazard deployment of Offline Equipment’s that if the Commission had decided to concentrate on the use of the BVR kits and had been forth coming with the number that is serviceable, it would have been possible to zone the country up for the purpose of optimizing the use of the limited equipment so as to take the registration to the door steps of the voter in the electoral areas.
This he says would have addressed many of the challenges that have confronted the commission in this limited registration exercise.
“The Commission can be free to evade reality by understating the number of eligible registrants in the country, but the field work will expose them” indicating that, “The effort of the commission to limit the number of qualified Ghanaian voters eligible to register from 300,000 as contained in the King James version to 500,000 in the Revised Standard Version and finally to 700,000 in the New International Version of the electoral commissions Bible; has been exposed as fruitless by the number of Ghanaian youth who inundate the registration centres daily to wait for several hours unend in very harsh weather conditions, in order to access a right granted to them by article 42 of the constitution of the Republic of Ghana to register and vote”,he asserted.
To him, this is completely an avoidable hardship deliberately imposed by the electoral commission on innocent youth, whose only crime is daring to exercise their civic right.
“As a result of the guess-work employed in establishing their registration target, the rest of the preparatory work could only follow suit”, adding “And as you may be aware when you do guess work you achieve guessed result”, he opined.
Touching on the distribution of the registration forms, he stressed that, owing to the fact that the distribution of registration forms was not based on any scientific formula, one of the main challenges of the exercise has been the shortage of registration forms at Registration Centers which have led to over congestion at the centres mostly in ndc strongholds such as the Northern Regions and other parts of the Volta Region.
On Illegal and clandestine registration through collusion between EC officials and operatives of the ruling NPP, he revealed that, the NDC monitoring team reported that on 20th June, 2019, five EC officials were caught registering over one hundred minors in the MCEs office at Birim Central Municipal area.
Secondly, At the Ayawaso District Office located at EC HQ, one NPP Tescon Executive Officer was arrested on Day 6 with already completed registration materials in his car Toyota Camry with registration No. GR 4015-10 and was taken to the Adabraka Police Station.
Thirdly, in Adansi Asokwa and Manhyia Constituencies new registration cernters were created and equipped with BVR equipments with registration proceeding frantically in the presence of NPP officials, but without notice to NDC at all.
Fourthly, in Atwima Nwabiagya of Ashanti Region the BVR equipment was found manned by persons who are neither permanent nor temporarily accredited EC officials, but busily registering students at Toase Senior High School.
“These we believe was made possible by the commissions refusal to disclose fully the number of BVRs kits to be deployed and to which registration centres they will be used 21 days before the commencement of the exercise as required by law under the CI 91”, Mr. Asiedu Nketia noted.
Another worrying issue he made known was wrong capture of registrants details of polling stations.
Indicating that, their monitoring teams have also reported wrong data capture of registrants particularly that of illiterates resulting in the wrongful assignment of polling stations to registered voters to places far away from their villages of residence.
The objective of this act he says will be to deliberately deny them access to a convenient polling station to cast their vote on voting day adding that many of such reports have been observed in the strongholds of the NDC.
Citing Atebubu Amantin District in the Bono East region where a wrong calibration of the registration equipment resulted in the printing of wrong registration date on voter ID cards falling outside the stipulated registration period.
This he says could have led to automatic deletion of names of such registrants from the register at the cleaning or the deduplication stage of the registration process.
Another instance he gave was in Obuasi where the BVR equipment was found to have been preloaded with over one hundred (100) names before the commencement of the registration.
This was discovered at the close of registration of day 1, by vigilante NDC agents, he said.
Intimidation of registrants in NDC strongholds by NPP Vigilantes operating on the guise of National Security as well as harassmwant of potential registrants of the party is of the objective to disrupt the exercise, leading to the suppression of the voter numbers in these areas.
“At Akweley, a suburb of Kasoa, NPP thugs unleash an unprovoked violence on Mr. Freeman Adjah Tetteh, the registration officer for turning down an order by the MCE to have special numbers issued to people who were in the queue after close of the day’s registration” adding “The MCE in response ordered his boys to beat up the registration officer, a headmaster at St. Mary’s Anglican JHS at Aklweley.
Not withstanding, the Constituency Youth Organiser popularly known as Nana 1, stormed the centre in a Rambo style with his gang and fired warning shots.
There was a similar incident at Ablekuma District Office of the EC where a supposed NPP assembly member brought in a loaded gun and machete welding guys to cause commotion, General ‘mosquito’ asserted.
In Ashanti Region which is the stronghold of the NPP (the governing party), school buses of government second cycle schools have been commandeered by government officials and NPP MPs to convey students including minors and under-aged ones to registration centers and in some cases the BVR equipment are moved from the registration centers to the campuses , while same officials of government he said are directing headmasters of second cycle schools in NDC strongholds to refuse the grant of exeat to students who are 18years and above to walk to their various centers near their schools to register.
Citing a typical case of Offinso North District in the Ashanti Region and the Toase Senior High School.
In the Afadjato South District for example, the DCE Hon Wisdom Senanu Saneadza he remarked confirmed through a telephone conversation with the party monitoring team on his phone number 0243275790, that he has directed the Heads of 3 second cycle schools not to grant any student an exeat within this registration period.
In conclusion, he said these are but a few examples of widespread attempt at voter suppression in the registration exercise, adding combination of several other widespread irregularities has also resulted in the loss of registration days to certain districts some which includes Dormaa West Constituency and many others.
This observation of the registration exercise by the party so far seem to pint to a calculated and well-rehearsed orchestration designed by the Electoral Commission to intentionally create a state of confusion that will allow capable, privileged and well position political players to exploit in pursuit of their parochial partisan interest rather than the national interest of securing a credible register which is a prerequisite for free and fair elections.
Story By: Ishmael Barfi