Editorial: Voter registration: Is Mahama not raising a false alarm?

The National Democratic Congress (NDC) and its flagbearer for the 2024 General Elections, Mr. John Dramani Mahama, are up in arms about the ongoing limited voter registration exercise. For the records, the Electoral Commission (EC) has opened the doors to those who have attained age 18 to register. This will qualify them to vote in future elections organised by the Commission.

But, whilst Mr. Mahama and the NDC are not against the limited registration exercise, they have big problem with the manner the exercise is being conducted. To them, the registration should have taken place at all the polling stations across the country, instead of limiting it to the district capitals.

Mr. Mahama’s argument is that not all potential voters have the financial wherewithal to travel, sometimes over fifty or hundred kilometres, to the district capitals to register. Therefore, to the former president, it would be appropriat if the registration exercise was conducted at the polling stations to make it easier for people to just walk in and register.

The EC, however, disagreed with Mr. Mahama and his party, and proceeded to come out with a time table for the limited registration exercise. The development compelled the NDC and other opposition parties – the Convention People’s Party (CPP), All People’s Congress (APC), Liberal Party of Ghana (LPG) and the Great Consolidated Popular Party (GCPP) – to file a suit at the court against the EC, trying to place an injunction against the registration exercise until their concerns had been addressed.

The EC, nevertheless, went ahead with the registration and this has forced a private individual, who had also sued over the same concerns raised by the opposition parties, to file a contempt case against the EC. The case is currently pending before an Accra High Court. But before the court could settle the whole caboodle, some Civil Society Organisations have also joined the fray, arguing that the decision to limit the registration to only the district capital was wrong.

The EC, through its Director of Electoral Services, Dr. Serebour Quaicoe, explained during Joy FM’s Newsfile programme over the weekend, that it had decided to limit the registration to only the district capitals, because the intention was to register those who had attained voting age to enable them participate in the impending district level elections.

He noted that though ignorance of the law is not an excuse, there were some people who, even though had already registered, still think they could go to the registration centres and register, because they had lost their Voter’s ID Card and, therefore, needed replacement. There are others who also think because they have relocated from the constituency where they originally registered, they have to do fresh registration to enable them vote in the new constituency they have relocated to.

To him, if the data of these ‘ignorant voters’ is marched against those already in the custody of the EC, their names, apart from prosecution, would also be deleted from the national register. According to him, it was to avoid all these confusions that they decided to limit the registration to only the district capitals. Though he did not specifically mention polling stations, he promised that the registration would be expanded next year to enable qualified voters to register and vote in the December 2024 election.

First of all, The Chronicle does not seek to condemn the stance that had been taken by Mr Mahama and his party – and as a matter of fact, all the major opposition parties. Mr. Mahama, like any other Ghanaian, has the right to express concerns over national issues, more especially when it involves his fortune or otherwise in the 2024 elections. The same applies to all those who have proceeded to court. They are exercising their right and nobody can question that.

But having listened to the EC’s side of the story, we are tempted to believe that they have a genuine case, except that their communication with the general public has been poor. The opposition parties appear to have convinced the general public that this is the last voter registration exercise the EC is conducting, prior to next year’s election. Unfortunately, per what Dr. Serebour Quaicoe told Joy FM listeners, it is far from the truth.

The Electoral Commission will conduct another registration exercise next year to capture all qualified voters who do not have their names on the register. If this is really known to Mr. Mahama and NDC, then The Chronicle does not understand why they are raising eyebrows, as though the electoral body has the intention to cheat for one political party in the next year’s elections.

As we indicated earlier, Mr. Mahama has the right to talk if he feels that something wrong is going, but in so doing, he must be circumspect because he has a large following that take every public statement he makes serious.  With the EC, this explanation should have been made public long ago and not wait till people have proceeded to court. In our opinion, the communication wing of the EC must be strengthened to keep constantly updating the public on issues affecting the 2024 polls and other elections.





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