On Tuesday, February 28, 2023, the Parliament of Ghana hosted representatives of the Electoral Commission (EC), National Identification Authority (NIA) and Ministry of Finance to brief the House on the proposed Constitutional Instrument (C.I) for voter ID registration.
The Chair of the EC Madam Jean Mensah during her presentation mentioned the requirements for the exercise which is yet to take place.
The proposed CI is seeking to make the ECOWAS Identity Card otherwise known as Ghana Card the sole required identification document for voter ID registration.
The proposed C.I also recommends registration centers will be cited at the commission’s office at the various districts instead of the polling stations as in previous C.Is.
This means that, every citizen of the age 18 years or more would have to move to the Electoral Commission office in his district with his Ghana Card to register for the voters ID.
Meanwhile, article 42 of the 1992 constitution of the Republic of Ghana guarantees citizens the right to vote.
It states that: “every citizen of Ghana of eighteen years or above and of sound mind has the right to vote and is entitled to be registered as a voter for the purposes of public elections and referenda”.
However, under regulation 1(3) of the proposed C.I by the electoral commission states that: “a person who applies for registration as a voter shall provide as evidence of identification the national identification card issued by the National Identification Authority”.
This means that, the regulation by the EC seeks to restrain many Ghanaians from exercising their voting rights.
According to the National Identification Authority (NIA) statistics, over 3.5 million cards have been locked up due to financial constraints from the government and other millions of citizens have not started the process yet. This means that, all persons at eighteen or more who are a victim of this would have their voting right seized by the EC only because they do not have the Ghana card.
There have been so many factors to be looked at as far as the 1992 constitution is concerned. This proposed C.I is flawed. It has no credibility and it poses a threat in the coming elections. Many Ghanaians would have to travel miles to get to their district capitals where the EC offices are mostly located. This will make it very difficult for people who have the district offices at such distances to get registered thereby disenfranchising them. Coupling the distances with current economic state where almost everything is expensive will keep many eligible voters unregistered.
In view of this, the leader of the 18Plus4NDC group, Miss Bridget Bonnie, has vehemently opposed the new proposal tabled before parliament by the EC and is asking members to disallow its passage. She argues that the new C.I will disenfranchise many young but qualified voters in so many ways.
Miss Bonnie said that, the National Identification Authority (NIA) do not have offices in every district. This means that, to register for the card, one may have to move from one district to another district access NIA offices before they can register for their Ghana Cards. She believes will be challenging to young people who may not have the economic power to make such trips just register to obtain their cards, which the EC is proposing as the sole requirement for voter registration in the coming elections.
“Young eligible voters will be denied their mandate to vote with the new C.I” she said, “this will frustrate young people turning 18 but without the financial capacity to travel to available offices to obtain their cards.”
Moreover, Miss Bonnie has argued that, although there are NIA premium centers facilitating the process of obtaining the Ghana Card, it is quite expensive for many young people to obtain the services of such centers. It is therefore going to be pandemonic to insist on the national ID card for registering new voters.
“There are regions without NIA premium service centers and to access a premium center for a card, one must pay Ghc250.00” she said, “if this is not properly done, it may lead to chaos come 2024.”
The E.C chairperson, Madam Jean Mensa, in parliament, has argued that, the Ghana card will be the sole document to register all new eligible voters that want to register for the voters ID card. She explained that, the position of the EC is to do away with the guarantor system because the guarantor system allows non- Ghanaians and under-age persons to register for voting. She also claimed passports and birth certificates are not prove of age and nationality, which is quite debatable.
Another case of interest to the 18Plus4NDC is that, the current C.I makes it easier for registered persons to identify their polling stations just on the day of registration since the process is coordinated at the polling centers. This makes it easier on the voting day as new voters to be familiar with where to vote.
In view of the above, the 18Plus4NDC insists that the EC is employing tactics to favor the current government by entrenching their mandate. The leadership of the group insists that, many youth will find it easier registering at known polling centers where they will cast their votes come 2024. It will be, therefore, frustrating to new voters who may register to vote at EC determined offices, far away from polling centers, to identify their polling stations on the day of elections.
Ghanaians will be displeased in their members of parliament if they allow this C.I to hold. It is the fervent call of all Ghanaians and a constitutional mandate to vote when eligible and there should not be any law that will deter citizens from enjoying their rights. The members of parliament should not allow the EC to lay proposed C.I as it lacks credibility and put the safety of the country in danger. Our long existed peace and unity cannot be taken for granted.
Story written by :Akudugu Haruna Ibrahim