There was an overwhelming rush by Ghanaians across the country to register for the new voters’ roll, a development which some observers have described as an over-subscription.
At some centres, applicants were seen as early as 5:00 a.m. in a bid not to be left out of what it would appear most Ghanaians are in love with.
The change in attitude towards the compilation of a new register is something which has prompted commentaries among political observers about whether there was a sense in creating so much fuss about the exercise. These reactions took the form of demonstrations, invective and even threats by the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC).
Former President John Mahama’s ‘newfound love’ for an exercise he loved to hate is better manifested in his planned tour of some parts of the country which, of course, would be used to campaign for all his supporters to go and register.
Many unable to contain the crowds forming up for the registration have adopted a waiting approach as they expect in the coming days that the numbers will reduce to levels they can contain.
Chairperson of the Electoral Commission (EC) and her staff have cause to laugh last, having weathered the intrigues from those opposed to the compilation of a new voters’ roll.
From the Ashanti Region, I.F. Joe Awuah Jnr., in Kumasi reports that there was mad rush for the voters’ ID card as a sizeable number of people patronized the ongoing voters’ registration exercise in the region.
Virtually, all the registration centres in the region, which has the highest number of constituencies in the country, were patronized by prospective voters to secure their voting rights.
Despite the high patronage of the exercise, especially in Kumasi, the regional capital, the exercise was generally peaceful even though there were few technical and human errors at some centres.
Most of the people that spoke with DAILY GUIDE said they were determined to exercise their franchise during the December 7 national elections and needed the cards to enable them to do so.
There were long queues in almost all the centres that DAILY GUIDE visited in the region which is the stronghold of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP).
In some of the centres, especially in the Asawase Constituency, which is in the hands of the opposition NDC, some minors aged about seven, were spotted in the queues.
It was gathered that parents of those minors strategically placed their children (minors) in the long queues on their behalf as they (parents) attended to their daily chores at home.
Interestingly, there seemed to be perfect understanding and comradeship among the people as nobody seemed to be bothered about the presence of the minors in the long queues in the Asawase Constituency.
In the Bantama and Manhyia South constituencies, some people did the unthinkable by using stones to represent them in long queues.
In the Ejisu Constituency, the queue was so long that it was generally agreed by the people present that two separate queues (for the old people and young people) should be formed at the centres.
It was also agreed that the registration officers would serve two old people, who were not physically fit to stand for hours in the long queues, before one person in the young people’s queue would be served.
Social distancing ignored
Generally, the social distancing protocols, which have been suggested by health experts to help curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) was totally ignored by the people at many centres DAILY GUIDE visited.
However, the mandatory wearing of face masks, another efficient way to stop the spread of the virus, was strictly adhered to by the people.
Veronica buckets, tissue papers and hand sanitizers were provided in all the registration centres in the region. People were required to wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water before being registered.
The exercise was generally peaceful because security was very tight at all the centres. There were armed policemen at all the centres, and their presence surely compelled the people to ‘behave’ properly.
Also, the Ashanti Regional Police Commander, COP Kwasi Mensah Duku’s radio announcement on Tuesday morning that the police-cum-military would be patrolling the various centres also helped to ensure law and order.
The soldiers, who were armed to the teeth, were seen in military vehicles moving from one registration centre to another. The soldiers, meanwhile, had little or no work to do as the people comported themselves quite well.
No political colours
Significantly, the paraphernalia of the various political parties, especially the two largest political parties NPP and NDC, were not seen in any of the centres.
Despite the general success nature of the exercise, there were few setbacks, especially at Asawase and other few areas, where there were reported cases of machine breakdown which delayed the process for a while.
Significantly, in all the few places that there were brief technical hitches, experienced technicians were readily available to fix the problems for the registration process to continue smoothly.
Also, there were initial reports that some people found it extremely difficult in locating the registration centres in their areas, following the EC’s decision to combine some centres into clusters.
No intimidation in Volta
From the Volta Region, Fred Duodu, reports in Ho that contrary to claims by the NDC that residents of the Volta Region, particularly Ketu South, are being intimidated and threatened against partaking in the voters’ registering exercise, the process started smoothly without any intimidation and the turnouts across the region have been massive.
There was no sign and reports of intimidation as at the time of filing this report, as all registration centres opened for the day and the first phase of the exercise in the stronghold of the NDC.
For most of the places toured by DAILY GUIDE, the exercise commenced on time, with residents queuing even before 7:00 am.
At 10:00 am, Akusa Park in Ketu South had a huge number of residents at the centre to register. Registration officers were finding it difficult to control the crowd, most of whom were not adhering to social distancing protocols.
Despite the numbers, almost all persons seen had their nose masks on with just a few without a mask but when asked they indicated it was in their pockets or purse.
The situation was the same at Asalafia Basic School. Turnout was high with long queues. As of 11:00 a.m.; the centre had registered about 55 persons.
In Ho, the Volta Regional capital, turnout was also very impressive contrary to the initial thought of apathy and boycott of the exercise by residents, most of whom are sympathetic to the opposition NDC who was against the new register.
At the GBC revenue office centre, 40 persons had registered at 11:10 a.m. while several others were seen in a long queue awaiting their turn. Eighteen persons had registered at RC Church, Bankoe, as of 8:20 a.m. Kabore School had 12 people registered as of 8:20 a.m.; Barracks Basic School had 14 persons registered as of 10:22 a.m., while Ho-Heve had 20 persons registered as of 10:40 a.m.
No part of the region as of noon had recorded any incident of machine breakdown, intimidation of residents or shortage of registration materials.
From the Western Region, Emmanuel Opoku in Takoradi reports that the first phase of the exercise took off smoothly in all the designated clusters in the region yesterday.
The turnout at all the centres DAILY GUIDE visited in the Sekondi-Takoradi Metropolis was high.
Registration officials were seen busily but patiently attending to potential voters to go through the registration processes, whilst other would-be registrants waited patiently for their turn in queues.
The Covid-19 safety precautions were observed at the centres as there were Veronica buckets to enable the applicants to wash their hands and there were also hand sanitizers while health officials checked the temperatures of the eligible voters with thermometer guns before they went into the processes.
However, adherence to the social distancing protocol was poor at some of the centres.
There were security personnel, agents of the two major political parties—NPP and NDC— as well as observers from the Coalition of Domestic Elections present at the registration centres.
At the All Saints Anglican Registration centre ‘2’, the exercise started at exactly 7:00 a.m. and as of 10:20 a.m., 50 persons had registered and issued with their cards.
DominicYankson, who described himself as the Registration Officer in charge of Special Duties told DAILY GUIDE that the health official at the centre was assisting in ensuring that all the applicants adhered to the safety protocols.
At the Sekondi Taxi Rank Registration centre, the Registration Officer, Patrick Prah, said 40 persons had registered as of 11:10 a.m.
Thirty-three (33) eligible voters had also registered at the Shell Filling Station ‘1’ registration centre as of 11:27 a.m. when DAILY GUIDE visited the centre.
At the Public Library Registration Centre in Takoradi, the Registration Officer, Richard Ampori Anfo, indicated that 30 persons had been registered as of 11:43 a.m.
The whole exercise in the newly created Western North Region is expected to commence on Thursday, DAILY GUIDE learnt.
From Tema in Greater Accra, Vincent Kubi reports that hundreds of people thronged the various registration centres in the Tema Metropolis to participate in the registration exercise.
Prospective voters were eager to register and were not even deterred by the slow start of the process before it picked up midway.
Speaking with DAILY GUIDE, the Tema Metropolitan EC Director, Manasseh Ofosuhene Asante, expressed excitement about the enthusiasm people attached to the exercise and said the campaign to get people to register appears to be yielding dividends.
He, however, said the exercise started slowly “because today is the first day of the exercise so you will surely record some challenges but it will pick up as time goes on. Most of the challenges we had were not serious and they are resolved within a shortest possible time.”
A visit by DAILY GUIDE to registration centres in Tema and at Ashaiman showed that the voters’ registration exercise had generally been smooth with little or no hiccups.
At Tema Manhean Senior High Technical School at Manhean, the exercise had been slow with a long winding queue at the centre and the situation was not different at Eastern Naval Command at Tema Newtown although the exercise was going on smoothly at all the 25 registration centres.
At the Starlight International School registration centre, 21 eligible voters registered at about 10:15 a.m. and the EC official, Wisdom Tetteh Addo, confirmed that the process had been smooth.
At Celestial School Complex registration centre, the exercise started on time, with over 20 registrants going through the exercise as of about 11: 00 a.m.
The Member of Parliament (MP) for Ashaiman, Ernest Henry Norgbey, who was dismissed by a High Court for trying to stop the whole registration exercise, expressed excitement about the smooth nature of the exercise but was ‘worried’ about the time wasted in getting a person registered.
From the Eastern Region, Daniel Bampoe reports in Koforidua that there was massive turnout at the various registration centres across the 33 municipal and districts in the region.
At centres in districts such as Atiwa East, Fanteakwa North, Abuakwa South, Suhum, New Juaben North and South municipals visited, people were there in their numbers to register.
The Regional Minister, Eric Kwakye Darfour, toured places like Nkawkaw, Anyinam, Osino, Kyebi, Suhum, and Koforidua to monitor the ongoing process.
The minister was excited about the smooth process, especially with the safety measures put in place at the registration centres to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
There were about 20 applicants registered at the Suhum Sectech Polling Station “A” where the minister visited before noon.
Nose mask arrest
At the Ogua Electoral Area in New Juaben North Constituency, a man and a woman who came to the centre without their nose masks on were arrested by the Koforidua-Effiduase District Police Commander, S. A. Young.
At Anyinam, NDC polling agents were causing confusion at some of the centres, claiming that the NPP polling agents had been given booklets to write the names of the registered applicants and were accusing the EC officials of giving out the booklets to the NPP, a claim which turned out to be false.
There were armed military personnel patrolling the registration centres visited.
From the Northern Region, Eric Kombat in Tamale reports that the exercise commenced smoothly in the region.
There are a total number of 1,944 registration centres put together making 395 clusters centres in the region.
The first phase of the registration had 207 centres in the region currently involved in the ongoing exercise.
The Northern Regional Director of the EC, Lucas Yiryel, told DAILY GUIDE that everything had been put in place to ensure that the exercise went on successfully and were looking to register between 150 and 200 people daily.
Northern Regional Minister Salifu Saeed, who went round to assess the situation, appealed to residents of the region to come out in their numbers to register.
“Most people, especially our mothers and sisters, who do not have certificates, can use the card to transact business and also use it as a qualification to secure loans and other benefits, so it is not for voting purposes alone,” he indicated.
From Bono Region, Daniel Yao Dayee reports in Sunyani that registration exercise began smoothly at about 7:00 a.m. in all the 137 centres without reported hitches across the region, according to Deputy Regional Director of the EC, Fannk Ohene Okraku.
He said Sunyani Municipal had the highest number of registration centres with 39 including Sunyani West, 31; Dormaa Central, 13; Dormaa East, 9, among others.
In the Bono East Region, the paper gathered that Techiman North (Tuobodom) had 22 registration centres and Techiman South, 32.
As of 12 noon when he spoke to DAILY GUIDE, he said the region had not received any anomaly from the field officers, saying all machines worked well.
He said they were working with 266 teams put into batches to do the registration in two phases. In the Sunyani Municipality, for example, 20 centres were opened for the first phase and 19 for the second phase, while in the Sunyani West District, 16 centres for the first phase and 15 for the second.
A visit to the registration centres in the municipality showed that the process was going on smoothly, with prospective applicants waiting in queues whilst observing the Covid-19 protocols on social distancing.
At rural development registration centre at about 11.18 a.m., 30 people had registered and the registration officer, Benjamin Koomson, said all registration materials, including Form A, challenge form, guarantors form and Form C were all in place.
However, there was a little misunderstanding between the NDC and NPP party agents as regards the residential status of a prospective voter when the NDC agent raised a protest; so they issued the challenge form to fill.
At Twene Amanfo SHS registration centre, the registration officer, Amankwa Boadi Peter, said the process was smooth. At this centre, only one person used the passport to the registration but the majority of them used Ghana Card.
From the Upper East Region, Ebo Bruce-Quansah reports in Bolgatanga that the exercise started in the various districts and municipalities in the Upper East Region.
In the Kassena-Nankana Municipality, the registration started at 8:00 a.m. at a total of 12 registration centres under the Kologo and Naaga Traditional areas in line with the cluster system and arrangements by the EC.
Officials of the EC were seen properly dressed in their appropriate PPE while they ensured that persons coming to register comply with the social distancing protocol and also wear their nose masks.
The Municipal Chief Executive for Kassena-Nankana, William Adum, in an interview with DAILY GUIDE, said the assembly was giving out some nose masks to people who came to the registration centres without nose mask, adding that the Local Government Ministry had given each constituency 10,000 pieces of nose masks and 10,000 hand sanitizers to be given to persons who come to registration centres without masks.
In the Builsa North District, the registration started in Kaasa, Zogsa and Siniesi areas where the officials ensured that the protocols were observed.
Officials at some of the centres visited in the Builsa North District said they had been given all that they need to run a successful registration.
In the Bolgatanga Central, 15 registration centres started on the first day but some persons had problems with officials over the compulsory wearing of nose masks while they stay at the centres, while in some centres, some people ignored the social distancing protocols.
No ECOWAS register
The need for compiling an all-Ghanaian voters’ register could not have been better put by President Akufo-Addo when while charging citizens to go and register ahead of the opening day, he pointed out that the 2020 election is for the people of Ghana and not West Africa.
In his national broadcast on Monday, the President had said poignantly that the acquisition of a voters’ roll fit for the purpose of conducting the December 7 elections should not be marginalized, the task being the responsibility of all citizens.
The December election “must be a Ghanaian election, not a West African election, conducted with a voter register of Ghanaians. That is the only way the true will of the Ghanaian people can manifest,” he said, adding “we must all make sure that persons who do not meet the requirements, as set out clearly in the Constitution, do not find their names into the register. If you aid the registration of an ineligible person and you are caught, you will face the full rigour of the law.”
Continuing, he said “using your God-given and constitutional rights costs nothing, but staying home can come at a very steep price. The pandemic, notwithstanding, we have to strengthen Ghanaian democracy.”
While addressing journalists on the registration exercise also on Monday, Jean Mensa, the Chairperson of the EC, described the guarantor system by which eligible voters can register as “lesser of two evils”.
The system although fraught with inconveniences will nonetheless “ensure that only persons who are guarantors and are 18 years old are enlisted on the voter register.”
Mrs. Mensa said in 2014, 928,540 persons representing 82.2 per cent were registered by the EC through the guarantor system.
In 2016, 1,046,067 were registered of which 92.5 per cent used guarantors.
In the continuous registration in 2016, 37,929 persons were registered and of this number 93.1 per cent used guarantors, she added.
For the referendum in 2018, 47,852 persons were registered by the EC of which 99.5 per cent used guarantors.
During the limited registration in 2019, 1,211,395 persons were captured by the EC of which 95.2 per cent used guarantors.
Regardless of the foregone, the EC boss said she expected the Ghana card registration to “become routine at the national, regional and district levels”, adding that “I hope and pray that the 2020 election should be the last time that we, as a country, would need the guarantor system. Come 2020, all citizens should be issued with the National Identification Card.”