The “bungling inefficiency” and “perceived partiality” of the “once-revered” Electoral Commission of Ghana have conspired to “threaten” to “disenfranchise” several Ghanaians in the upcoming December 2020 general elections, former President John Mahama has observed.
Speaking at the flag-raising ceremony of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) as part of its 28th-anniversary, the flag bearer of the party said: “My brothers and sisters, this year we will be holding our 8th general election since the advent of the 4th Republic” but “never have we, in the history of the 4th Republic, experienced such a strange situation where six months to an election, we are all not sure what register we will be using for voting”.
“Never have we, in the history of the 4th Republic, experienced a situation where large numbers of our population are threatened to be disenfranchised because of bungling inefficiency and perceived partiality of our once-revered Electoral Commission”, Mr Mahama said.
Per C.I.126 recently passed by Parliament, the Ghana card and passport are the only documents that eligible voters can use as proof of citizenship, to get registered for the new voter card ahead of the 2020 polls.
In the absence of either of the documents, a registrant would need two already-registered Ghanaians to vouch for him/her as a Ghanaian before that person is registered.
The NDC – which has dragged the EC to the Supreme Court for interpretation of the laws of Ghana relative to that contention – as well as some civil society organisations, have raised qualms with the exclusion of the current voter ID from the registration process.
Last week, the EC, in a 31-page document, wrote to the Supreme Court explaining why it excluded the current voter ID card from the exercise.
In its writ, the NDC argued that “the 2nd Defendant (EC) has no legal basis to exclude the use of existing voter ID cards for the purposes of registration and that should this Court allow the 2nd Defendant to deny Ghanaian citizens the use of their existing voter ID cards for registration, it would impair the right of citizens to register and vote. That would be a dent on the gains made by this Court in giving life and meaning to Article 42 of the Constitution”.
The party’s lawyers said: “We end by relying on the poignant statement by Kpegah JSC in Apaloo versus Electoral Commission supra at page 410 where His Lordship stated: “Thus, consistent with our belief in and adherence to the principle of universal adult suffrage, the right to register and vote is guaranteed every citizen of Ghana who is eighteen years or above and not of unsound mind. In the case of Tehn-Addy v Electoral Commissioner [1996-97] SCGLR 589, the plaintiff was denied the chance to register as a voter, and he brought an action claiming that the Electoral Commission had violated the Constitution, 1992. This court unanimously held that every sane Ghanaian citizen of eighteen years and above had the right under article 42 of the Constitution, 1992 to be registered as a voter. And that the constitutional right of voting was indispensable in the enhancement of the democratic process and it could not be denied in the absence of a constitutional provision to that effect”.
“The function of the 2nd Defendant under article 45(e) is to undertake programmes for the expansion of the registration of voters and not to undermine or place unnecessary impediments on registration. The 2 Defendant’s constitutional function includes making it easier to register to vote and not to place impediments on the enjoyment of that fundamental right to be registered and o vote”.
“In the circumstances, we invite this Honourable Court not to be frightened by the spectre of ghosts, minors and foreigners on the register. For ghosts may be able to receive salaries when on the payroll but cannot appear to vote when on the voter roll and foreigners and minors can be removed from the roll of voters if the 2nd Defendant is diligent and does its work well”, the NDC’s argument said.
In the EC’s counter-arguments, the election management body provided to the apex court the following legal reasons why it is not allowing the existing voter identification card to be used in the upcoming voter registration exercise.
The existing voter register which was compiled in 2012 pursuant to CI 72 and revised since by limited registration exercises has been held by this Honourable Court as not being reasonably credible. By implication, the cards issued pursuant to it are also not reasonably credible.
In respect of the cards issued pursuant to ci 12, the 2nd Defendant (EC) has found that those voter identification cards were issued without any form of identification at all and its ineligibilities, breaches and excesses were imported into the 2012 register pursuant to CI 72 in breach of Article 42 and displacing the credibility of the CI 12 cards.
The 2nd Defendant found a fundamental omission in its training manual and the manner in which the voter registration exercise was carried out in 2012 partly in breach of its own binding CI 72 and also in breach of Article 42 of the Constitution.
The 2nd Defendant wants a break from the past to remedy all the carried-on ineligibilities, excesses and breaches of Article 42 as the existing cards have become fruits of a “poisoned tree”.
It will be in continuous breach of article 42 of the constitution, to totally disregard this Honourable court’s own judgment to continue using the existing cards and It is in contravention of Section 8(1) of Act 750 (as amended) for the 2nd Defendant to accept the existing voter identification cards as a means of proving citizenship for the compilation of the new register.
Your Lordships, we (EC) submit that what Section 8(1) of Act 750 (as amended) has done is to effectively exclude the existing voter identification card as a form of identification for the purposes of proving citizenship which is the first and foremost qualification required of an individual applying to be registered as a voter. It is the considered opinion of the 2nd defendant (EC) that to accept any form of identification, including the existing voter identification cards, which is not provided for under Section 8(1) Act 750 (as amended) as a means of proving identification for the compilation of the new register will be in contravention of statute.
The case, which is being determined today, Thursday, 11 June 2020, is being adjudicated by a seven-member panel of justices presided over by the Chief Justice, Justice Anin Yeboah.
Mr Mahama said: “We all await the hearing of our highest court tomorrow [Thursday, 11 June 2020] to determine whether we would have a flawed election or one that we can all have confidence in, and the will of the people has been properly expressed”.
“As a party, we have participated in every election in the 4th Republic and we have a history of accepting results of elections whenever we have believed in the integrity of the poll”, he said, adding: “As the leader of the NDC, I wish to serve notice that we shall do our part to ensure that our country remains peaceful and the electoral process proceeds smoothly. But and a big but, let nobody assume that we will accept the result of a flawed election”.
The former President also noted that “every child born in Ghana is a Ghanaian citizen. We are of different ethnicity but united by our nationality”.