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Opinions of Saturday, 6 June 2020

Columnist: Isaac Boatey-Agyei

The EC should focus on the elections instead of a new voters register

The EC should prioritise the 7th December elections to avoid any constitutional problems, instead of focusing on a new voters or electoral register.

A good electoral register is the foundation for a fair and successful election, but compiling a new electoral register could put the elections in jeopardy, if there are a lot of covid-19 infections during the compilation of a new electoral register or if the time table for the election is affected.

I will like to suggest that, the EC should start by registering those who have turned 18 years since the last registration and those who have not registered before, so that if there are serious challenges during the registration, then the EC can decide to just do limited registration and add them to the previous register.

It will be better to have a new wave of infections after the elections than to have a new wave of covid-19 infections after the compilation of a new electoral register, because that will seriously affect the turnout of the main elections, as well as create other issues.

The argument that, whether it is a completely new registration or limited registration, people will queue to register, so it is the same risk of infections is flawed.

There will be a big difference between the number of people who will register during a completely new electoral register and a limited register, because a limited registration involves a far smaller number, so it is more manageable and the risk of infections is far smaller than compiling a completely new register.

Physical distancing can be easily organised during limited registration because of the smaller number of people.

If the limited registration proves successful and the EC thinks that there is time to extend it to a completely new electoral register, then those who have already registered or are in the current register could be registered for a new electoral register.

People who are dead or have passed away should not affect the election results because the register is biometric. Nobody can vote for a dead person, unless there is a “criminal conspiracy”, which will be difficult with representatives of all the political parties present, so the issue of people being on the register when they pass away is not that much of an issue.

The only way that the names of those who have passed away will affect the register is the percentage of registered voters who will vote.

The 50% plus one figure used to elect the President is based on the valid votes and not on those who are registered.

Consideration where we are in the pandemic, the EC can do limited registration for new voters, without doing “physical or manual” validation for registered voters, if that will be too risky. The validation can be done electronically if necessary or a combination of both manual and electronic.

The names of all registered voters can remain in the current register without validation if it is not required by law. If the validation is required by law, then we should look at technological solutions for the validation or exhibition of the electoral register.

The newly registered voters can then be added to those in the old register to get the total number of registered voters.

It is far easier to register the new voters over several days because of physical distancing without going through a completely new registration for everybody.

This way, there will be no threat to the elections taking place in December 2020. In fact, with proper planning starting from now, I don’t see any problem with the December elections and if necessary, it could be held earlier.
The EC should invite or elicit suggestions on how to get the elections to take place if the pandemic persists and gets worse for a long period, so that they can take advantage of all the suggestions and ideas including technological solutions.

These are not normal times so people should be allowed to register at where they are now for the coming elections, so that they can transfer their votes later for future elections.

The elections can take place over a few days if necessary, because of physical distancing. In places with high voter numbers, the voting could be done alphabetically on different days so that as an example, the first day of voting could be for names that start with the letters A and B or between A and C, depending on the distribution of the names in the register.

The limited registration can take the same approach of different names registering on different days to avoid people going to queue and not being able to register and make it easier to organise physical distancing.

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