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Feature Article of Saturday, 12 January 2013

Columnist: Asare, Kwaku S.

The Electoral Commissioner and the Quarter of a Million GROPAA Voters

S. Kwaku Asare

According to the Electoral Commission (EC), there is a reason it revised the voters’ register from a total of 13,917,366 to 14,158,890 just before the 2012 general elections (see the EC’s response in Nana Addo Dankwa et al. v. John Mahama and EC, Writ No. J1/6/2013). And that reason is that the EC found and registered 241,524 additional voters who are “foreign service officials, students abroad on government scholarship, other Ghanaians working abroad in international organizations and the late registration of service personnel returning from international peacekeeping duties.”

I will call these 241,524 the GROPAA (Government ROPAA) voters to distinguish them from other Ghanaians who are eligible to register and vote under ROPAA but who are not allowed to do so because the EC claims it lacks the resources to do so. But the reason for this article is not to point out the EC’s glaring, unacceptable, unethical and unlawful double standards in favoring GROPAA voters or discriminating against ROPAA voters. That is an important issue, in its own right, that must be addressed another day.

The reason for this article is to highlight that it is hard to believe the country has anywhere near 241,524 GROPAA voters and to ask the EC to justify and reconcile this gargantuan number to numbers available at the foreign ministry (MOFA), Scholarship Secretariat, International Organizations and the Military.

The MOFA’s website lists 43 countries where we have missions. Assuming each mission has an average of 40 officials, the maximum number of officials appears to be less than 2000. The Scholarship Secretariat’s website does not provide any details of the number of students who are on government scholarship. However, it is extremely unlikely that the population of the scholarship beneficiaries exceeds the population of students at the University of Ghana, which is reported to be about 30,000 at the University’s website. Ghanaians who work in cognizable international organizations should not exceed 1,000. The Ghana Military has no more than a total of 10,000 service men, and only a fraction of these are on peacekeeping duties.

The total of the 4 groups comes to 43,000 and this is assuming that all servicemen are on peacekeeping duties, there are about 50 missions with an average staff of 40, there as many students on government scholarship overseas as they are students at University of Ghana and there are around 1,000 Ghanaians working for international organizations such as IMF, World Bank and the UN. Not only that but also was able to register all eligible 43,000 GROPAA voters within the registration period!

So where did the EC find the 241,524 GROPAA voters to register within the short window that the EC allows for registration?

Equally, if not more, important the EC must provide answers to the following questions:

1. Prior to the election and the EC’s response to the election petition, what did the EC tell the political parties about the number of GROPAA voters? 2. How many voters are in each of the categories specified by the EC (foreign service official, students, etc.)? 3. Do the numbers from 2. above agree with numbers from the sponsoring institutions (MOFA, Scholarship Secretariat, etc.)? 4. How many GROPAA voters were registered in each country? 5. What registration window (time period) was employed by the EC for GROPAA voters? 6. Did these GROPAA voters go through biometric registration? 7. When, how and where did GROPAA voters vote? 8. Did GROPAA voters went through verification? 9. When and where were GROPAA ballots cast and counted? 10. Which polling stations and constituencies were GROPAA votes added to and why?

As with the EC’s failure to account for overvotes, there is something seriously wrong with the EC’s GROPAA numbers. It is time for the EC to own up and explain these potentially outcome-changing anomalies.

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