EC Cleared To Register New Voters

Electoral Commission (EC) of Ghana has been given the go ahead to set a date for the registration of Ghanaian citizens who are 18 years and above who are not on the current electoral roll.

Parliament last week approved the Public Elections (Registration of Voters) Regulations, 2016, Constitutional Instrument (C.I 91), after the expiration of 21 sitting days, to pave way for the EC to register new voters for the general elections in November.

According to the parliamentary select committee on subsidiary legislation, the purpose of C.I 91 was to enact a new legislation for the registration of voters to address some anomalies that occurred during the registration of voters for the 2012 General Elections.

The new C.I therefore, gives the EC the legal mandate to fix a date to register citizens of the country who are 18 years and above, of sound mind, and are not on the current voters register.

Article 51 of the 1992 Constitution provides that the EC shall, by a C.I, make regulations for the effective performance of its functions under the Constitution or any law, and in particular, for the registration of voters, the conduct of public elections and referenda, including provision for voting by proxy.

Again, section 2 of the EC Act, 1993 (Act 451), also provides that the functions of the EC, as stipulated by Article 45 of the 1992 Constitution, is to compile the register of voters and revise the register at the periods determined by law.

As it stands now C.I 91 provides grounds for qualifications for registration and indicates that a person who applies for registration as a voter shall provide as evidence of identification a passport, a driver’s license, a national identification card or an existing voter identification card.

According to C.I 91, in a situation where a person has none of the above mentioned identification cards, the instrument has created a window of opportunity for such people by bringing a registered voter to guarantee for his or her identity and that some guarantors can also guarantee of not more than five persons.

As it stands now the C.I 91 makes it mandatory for any guarantor as a way of proving that he/she knows the people he/she is guaranteeing for, have to indicate the relationship he or she has with the applicant as well as solemnly swear or affirm that the applicant is qualified to register as a voter.

The Osei Bonsu Amoah-led committee in their report to the Committee of the Whole observed that the EC could not proffer the reasoning behind one individual acting as a guarantor for a maximum of five applicants who could not provide evidence of identification for registration.

The provision for an individual acting as a guarantor for a maximum of five applicants who cannot provide any evidence of identification for registration brought some hated argument during the consideration of the committee’s report on the floor of the House.

Members from the minority side-kicked against that provision whiles those from the Majority bench supported it.

Minority Leader, Hon. Osei-Kyei Mensah-Bonsu, raised concerns over the rationale for including driver’s license as evidence of proof of one’s citizenship saying the fact that someone is holding a driver’s license does not mean he/she is a Ghanaian.

The minority leader and MP for Suame also questioned the basis of the guarantee and argued that it was not enough for a person to guarantee the citizenship of another person.

However, Majority Leader, Hon. Alban S.K. Bagbin, was of the view that the time has come for the Chief Justice (CJ) to set up a dedicated court to deal with electoral related offences.

According to him, it has become imperative to begin punishing electoral offenders in a swift and concise manner in order to deter others as well as sanitising the entire electoral system, especially as the country prepares for the 2016 polls.

“People break the laws of the land with impunity all in the name of elections. The C.J should establish dedicated courts to deal with such people in order to sanitise the system,” Hon. Bagbin reiterated.