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General News of Saturday, 15 August 2015

Source: Ghananewshub.com

EC rejects ‘no verification no vote’

Ghana’s election governing body, the Electoral Commission (EC) has rejected the policy of “no verification no vote” as a means of biometric identification of eligible voters for the 2016 general election even though it used the system in the recent Talensi by-election in Upper East region.

The new policy of verification, which was introduced in the 2012 presidential and parliamentary elections, is a process by which fingers of voters are biologically verified by a biometric machine to obtain their true identity before they cast their ballot.

The EC has now rejected a proposal by an Electoral Reform Committee to maintain the policy for the next general election.

At two separate meetings held on the 6th and 12th of May 2015 under the auspices of the EC, the committee made a number of far-reaching proposals including the enforcement of ‘no verification no vote,’ in its current form.

However, even though all the major political parties have fully endorsed the policy, the EC indicated it was rejecting it in principle subject however, to an appropriate alternative verification system.

The Commission contended that the right of a citizen to vote is fundamental and guaranteed by the 1992 Constitution and no system should obstruct this right.

It argued that inherent in its mandate, is its duty to ensure that every eligible voter gets the opportunity to cast his/her vote.

EC’s Director of Public Affairs, Christian Owusu Parry declined to comment on the matter when the paper met him at the Commission’s headquarters Monday afternoon.

He however indicated that the EC will communicate the final decision to the public when it reviews all the proposals with registered political parties at IPAC.

The issue of no verification, no vote became a subject of litigation during the landmark Supreme Court election petition filed by the presidential candidate of the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP), Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and two others, after the 2012 general election.

The petitioners had submitted that about a million people voted without going through the process of biometric verification and had prayed the highest court of the land to cancel those votes.

But the Supreme Court in a majority decision of 5-4 dismissed the petition and recommended electoral reforms that would make elections free and fair in the country.

As a sequel to the recommendation, the Electoral Reforms Committee was formed to help formulate a more credible election process that ensures outcome of polls are generally acceptable to all political parties.

The committee came out with proposals, some of which have been wholly accepted with some few modifications by the EC with others accepted in principle by the Commission but would require further discussion with Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC).

About 17 proposals were fully accepted including holding of Presidential and Parliamentary Elections in the first week of November of an election year instead of the December 7.

Others were that the EC should serially number all statement of Poll and Declaration of Result Sheets, set up a national collation centre to replace the ‘strong room,’ appointment of collation officers for each constituency and election officials who breach electoral laws should be sanctioned.

The proposals that were accepted but would require further discussion with IPAC included extending the period of notice for voter registration exercise from 14 to 21 days, EC should be given the mandate to apply to court to delete unqualified persons from the provisional voters’ register.

It is also proposed that the EC should be required by law to give a copy of the final certified voters register to registered political parties 21 days before elections, Civil Society Organisations be made full members of IPAC and that number of voters per polling station be reduced.

Furthermore, where there is over-voting (where the number of ballots found in the ballot box exceeds the number of persons authenticated to vote), the results of the polling station should be annulled; EC should publish in the Gazette all polling stations with their codes and locations not later than 42 days before elections, publish presidential election results on a polling station by polling station basis and expand the list of special voters to include accredited media personnel.