Parliament has, by consensus, rejected the Electoral Commissions’ (EC) proposal of making the Ghana Card the only means of identification of citizenship for the purposes of voter registration in an impending Constitutional Instrument (CI) the latter intended to lay.
The rejection was contained in a report by the Committee of the Whole presented to the House, a debate by members and a subsequent voice vote after the debate on the same day, Friday, March 31, 2023.
According to the House, the timing for the legislation was not right since many Ghanaians had not been able to acquire the Ghana Card.
The House recommended to the EC to allow eligible voters to procure the Ghana Card before it could legislate it as a sole means of voter identification.
“…The Committee is emphatic in its position that this is not the time to introduce and implement the Ghana Card as the only means of identification of citizenship for the purposes of voter registration. The EC should tarry slowly until every eligible voter is afforded the opportunity to register and procure the Ghana card before the legislation of such a compulsion.”
The motion for the adoption of the report was moved by the First Deputy Speaker, Mr. Joseph Osei Owusu, and was seconded by Mr. Haruna Iddrisu, Member of Parliament (MP), Tamale South.
It would be recalled that EC’s proposal to use the Ghana Card as the sole means of voter registration generated a number of concerns from some Ghanaians, and also among the members of Parliament.
Parliament, therefore, requested its two committees, the Special Budget Committee and the Subsidiary Legislation Committee, to produce a report pursuant to that.
Upon a pre-laying meeting with the EC, the committees indicated in a report that it would not accept and would reject any effort that was geared towards making the use of the Ghana Card as the only medium to qualify a person who was eligible to vote in the 2024 elections.
The report said that it supported any effort that would enable every Ghanaian to get a Ghana Card, but since some citizens were unable to register for the national card due to the existence of serious challenges, the National Identification Authority (NIA) was confronted with, using the Ghana Card as the only medium for voter registration would impact negatively on the electoral role and prevent some qualified persons from registering to vote.
It, therefore, recommended to the House to hold a special meeting with the EC and the National Identification Authority in order to advance discussions on the CI.
The Committee of the Whole, therefore, invited the EC, the NIA and the Ministry for Finance to brief it. The Committee then came up with a number of recommendations in its report after the briefing from the three institutions.
“The Committee, following the presentation by the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission, the Executive Secretary of the National Identification Authority and the Minister responsible for Finance, made the following observations and submissions, among others, to be included in the new C.I. by the Commission to improve the voter registration exercise and the entire electoral process:
“The idea of dealing with the challenge of multiplicity of identification cards and documents, by creating a Ghana Card or National identification Cord is most laudable and supported by the parties and governments.
There is cross-party consensus on the idea of dealing with the challenge of multiplicity of identification cards, by creating a Ghana Card or a National identification Card. However, there are serious challenges for the usage of the Ghana Cord as the sole means of identification as a Ghanaian to be entitled to be registered as a voter. These challenges include:
“The lack of adequate resources to ensure that every eligible Ghanaian is registered before the 2024 general elections.
“The trust deficits between the political parties and the consequent lack of consensus on the implementation at this time,” the report noted.
Members from both side of the House who also commented on the report also expressed similar concerns raised in the report.
Mr. Iddrisu, the immediate past Leader of the Minority Caucus, said the Minority was opposed to the idea and would reject any move by the electoral management body to make the Ghana Card the sole reference for purposes of getting registered as a voter, because, “There is the right to vote and be voted for, the NDC will defend that right,” and the CI did not guarantee those rights.
The Deputy Minority Whip, Mr. Ahmed Ibrahim, also charged his colleagues to vote against the CI when it was finally brought to Parliament for approval.
“I want to call on colleagues from all sides to vote to adopt the report because doing so will do the country some good.”
The Deputy Majority Leader and MP for Effutu, Mr. Alexander Afenyo Markins, said the decision to direct the EC to rework the CI was a neutral one devoid of political leanings since both sides were concerned about the possible infringement on one’s right to vote should the CI be pushed through in the form that it came.
He, therefore, called on Ghanaians to dispel any notion that purported that the Majority was in support of the CI while the Minority was against it.
“It must be emphasized that in coming to a conclusion on the way to go on the CI, this matter was not a partisan one, but it was one that all of us had an interest in, and so I will want to dispel any notion out there that whereas the NDC was against the EC, the NPP was for the EC.”