The electoral commission of Ghana will not be compiling a new voter list to be used for the November 7 general election, despite calls by the main opposition, New Patriotic Party (NPP) to do so.
Backed by other opposition and some civil society groups, the NPP petitioned the electoral commission, saying it has evidence that the current voter list is bloated with minors and non-citizens.
The opposition party maintains the credibility of presidential, parliamentary and local elections will be undermined if the current voter list is not discarded and a new one compiled.
The electoral commission had appointed an independent panel to look into the NPP's concerns.
The panel presented its report to the electoral commission in late December, concluding that arguments for a new register were "unconvincing," adding that it would not recommend the replacement of the current voter list.
The electoral commission accepted the panel’s report and said in a New Year's Eve statement that it will continue to engage stakeholders to ensure that a clean and credible voters’ register is in place for the 2016 general election through an inclusive and collaborative audit process.
It also plans to publish the full report of the panel’s recommendations on the electoral commission website by January 7.
In an interview with VOA, panel chair Professor V.C.R.A.C. Crabbe said having a clean and credible voter register is the shared responsibility of all Ghanaian citizens.
“The problem of the voters register is that it’s not static,” said Crabbe. “As a panel, we had to get into the problems of minors getting on the register and aliens getting on the register. These considerations were uppermost in our minds… you have to appreciate that we have a problem of ethnic communities, which cut across our borders, and we have to take such things into consideration and see how far we can be able to get a voters register, which reflects the people who have a right to vote.”
He said there were contrasting views about the compilation of a new voter list. These were expressed during the forum organized by the panel to hear opinions of Ghanaians.
The opposition parties insist that the current voter list is not credible enough to be used for the elections. They cited as proof individuals who have registered to vote in neighboring Togo, who have also registered in Ghana to vote in the upcoming elections.
Bloated or not?
“There were other people who came to establish that the registers were not bloated… We had to take also what other people had to say where the voters register was bloated or not…In fact somebody came to say that if you take voting in this country over a period of time, what we’ve been having is the same. So if you say the register is bloated, then they have always been bloated,” Crabbe said.
He added that members of his committee deliberated on the legal framework and the constitutional provisions about who qualifies to be a Ghanaian voter. He cited instances in the High Court where an individual was challenged to prove they are Ghanaian. He said members of the group didn’t disagree on the recommendations the committee submitted to the electoral commission after its work was completed.
“Citizenship in this country is a very thorny issue, and anybody who claims that somebody is on the register [but] shouldn’t be on the register must establish that that person is not a citizen of Ghana. This is where there was a problem, that was never established that those persons who are supposed to be aliens and whose names are on the register are in fact not citizens of Ghana,” Crabbe said.
“These are issues one has to consider in order to come to a conclusion where the allegations that some people are on the register but shouldn’t be there. You have to prove also that they are not citizens of Ghana, and if you can’t give that proof, then of course it would be very difficult for us to say no,” Crabbe added.