(CODEO) Preliminary Statement on the On-Going Nationwide Biometric Voter Registration Exercise
Based on field reports on the first two days of the registration exercise, CODEO retains confidence in ability of the Electoral Commission (EC) to significantly improve the logistical matters for the exercise while its registration officers pick up the pace of registration in the coming days. CODEO, however, sees the need for the EC to improve monitoring in the urban areas and party strongholds to address the challenges encountered so far. The following are key findings from CODEO’s initial observation of the registration exercise.
• We observed a variety of technical and logistical challenges at many registration centers. A number of registration centers could not start on time, which registration officials blamed on lateness in receiving the needed supplies. At the Bethel Assemblies of God Church registration center in Cape Coast, for example, registration started at about 11 am due to the late arrival of the registration kit.
• The technical challenges encountered included freezing computers, failure of equipment to respond, and forceful shutdown of computers after each registration cycle. In addition, equipment broke down (for several minutes, and in some cases, hours before they were rectified) in some registration centers. For instance, the registration equipment broke down for about 2 hours at the Mosque H/N 227/16 registration center at Maamobi in the Ayawaso District in Accra. The equipment for one of the two registration teams broke down for about an hour before it was fixed at the Zamstech Senior High School registration center in Bolgantanga.
• Some registration officials appeared not to be adequately conversant with the operation of the biometric kits. Such personnel inadequacies, coupled with technical difficulties and other factors, negatively affected the pace of the registration, which was quite slow in some areas.
• Certain registration centers lacked complete registration kits - with items such as laminators, spare batteries and challenge forms missing. The registration kits lacked laminators for issuing the new voter cards at the Hia D/A primary school in Amansie Central and Pakyi No. 2 L/A JHS registration center in Amansie West in the Ashanti Region, for example. The Manso No. 2 D/A School in the Gomoa West District had only 1 battery and no generator. The center was, thus, forced to close around 5pm when it run out of battery.
• The exercise was generally smooth in many rural areas, in comparison to the urban areas which tended to experience technical challenges. However, turn-out in the selected rural areas where CODEO observers were deployed was unimpressive, as people seemed inadequately informed about the registration exercise in general and the cluster system in particular.
• CODEO noted that the photographs on the new cards were generally of good quality. There were, however, a few instances where photographs were blurred or quite dark. The pictures were blurred on the new voter identification cards issued to a few people at the Old Praso D/A primary school Sakora Park in the Twifo Ati Morkwa Disrtict in the Central Region for instance.
CODEO makes the following recommendations for the improvement of the biometric voter registration exercise
• The EC should intensify its education on when polling stations within clusters will open by publishing more widely through print, TV and radio the kit movement plans for phase one and two this week to increase awareness about the exercise. We appeal to the media to support this effort;
• Registration officers should improve on queue management at their centers. They should also improve on how they communicate legitimate challenges to the people in registration queues in order to promote understanding of unforeseen and inadvertent delays;
• The EC should also educate the public about the proper procedures to be followed in challenging the nationality and age of applicants in order to avoid chaotic situations at registration centers;
• On serialization of ID numbers, the EC should educate the public about the generation of card numbers to promote understanding;
• Political parties must desist from the tendency to make alarming statements about the exercise, especially where they are not substantiated with specific facts- as it causes undue public anxiety. CODEO implores our political parties to exercise utmost caution in demanding redress for problems that arise from inadequate understanding of the BVR exercise. In this regard, CODEO respectfully requests that political parties and, indeed, all those who suspect irregularities in the BVR process officially lodge their complaints with the EC and provide the EC with details of the alleged irregularities to enable the EC and other stakeholders verify them. Political party agents could support the complaint and redress processes by providing their political parties with clear details on irregularities, which are then collated by their respective parties to facilitate verification by the EC.
• The general public must exercise patience and bear with the EC as it takes steps to improve the registration exercise. The public should also make the effort to understand the cluster system being used for the registration exercise, identify their registration centers and the registration phase in which the center falls to be able to make the necessary preparations for their registration.
• While condemning the reported violent incidence which took place in the Foase Kokoben Electoral area in Ashanti, CODEO calls on the Ghana Police Service to expedite efforts in the investigation of the matter and the prosecution of the perpetrator(s). CODEO further calls on the Ghana Police Service to review the current security arrangements, with particular reference to the concealment of weapons by individuals at the registration centers in known party strongholds and urban centers. CODEO wishes to repeat its call on the Ghana Police Service to act speedily and decisively to deal with election related violence. Following the clash between NPP and NDC supporters in the Odododiodio Constituency on March 20, 2012 it is imperative that the police send a strong message to trouble-makers and party thugs that these actions will not be tolerated.
• Finally, CODEO urges all other stakeholders such as the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE), civil society groups and political parties to help increase awareness about the public about the on-going exercise.
Prof. Miranda Greestreet