CODEO PRESS BRIEFING ON THE BIOMETRIC VOTER REGISTRATION (BVR)
CODEO is currently made up of 39 secular and religious organizations of teachers, doctors, midwives, nurses, trade unions, students, lawyers, women groups and industrialists. CODEO has observed all national and local elections, bye-elections, and political party primaries as well as campaigns since 2000. In 2008, CODEO observed nine months of the pre-election environment and posted close to 4,000 observers to all regions of Ghana on Election Day. In that year, CODEO also introduced the Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT) methodology, which enabled it to independently verify the results of the presidential elections.
For the 2012 elections, CODEO is observing the Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) exercise conducted by the Electoral Commission of Ghana. It will also monitor the pre-election environment from now till November and deploy approximately 4,000 observers to the field on ElectionDay, in addition to conducting another PVT. Finally, CODEO will retain 25 people to observe post-election activities, including the adjudication of election related court cases.
Methodology for the Biometric Voter Registration Observation
Now to the main subject matter of today’s media briefing:Interim CODEO findings on the BVR exercise.
With the generous support of the United Kingdom Department of International Development (DfID), CODEO trained and deployed 620 persons to observe the BVR under the supervision of 50 Regional Coordinators. The observation of the first two phases of the BVRcovered a random sample of 300 polling stations in 100 districts in all 10 regions of Ghana. As a result, CODEO was able to observe the BVR in polling stations as far apart as Bosome Frehoin Ashanti, Bodi, Nzulezu, and Akontombra in Western Region and Piitanga in the Upper East Region.This allowed CODEO to obtain a true picture of how the BVR exercise has gone so far nationwide.
CODEO deployed observers to individual polling stations for 10 days. Guided by a checklist,the observers collected information on the proceedings at the registration centers for days the centerswereopen. By the commencement of the third phase of registration exercise, CODEO had collected observation data from over half of the 620 selected registration centers. That forms the basis of the Interim Report we are presenting today. The observerspaid close attention to all aspects of the BVR exercise, including the conduct of the EC registration staff, the supply and handling of equipment and materials, the conduct of party representatives, the role of the police, and the response of the public to the exercise.
Summary of CODEO Observations
On the strength of 1,000 processed observation checklists out of the over3000 submitted by our observers, CODEO can broadly confirm (with satisfaction) that majority of the Ghanaian voting publichasreadily heeded the call to register. Most of the registration centers largely followed procedures laid down for the registration of voters.
However, a number of irregularities were observed, many of which were due to technical flaws and inattentionto operational details on the part of the EC field staff.
Quite a few,rather serious, problems werealsocaused by inappropriate behavior on the part of some party activists in and around specific registration centersas well as the actions and inactions of the Ghana Police Service.
Many of the anomalies canbe rectified with closer supervisionbythe EC field staff. Butother anomaliesmerit morefundamental reforms to the operational proceduresfor the BVR and stricter enforcement of registration laws by the EC and the police.
Opening and Closing of centers
Only a few of the centers opened on or beforethe appointed time of 7.00am. However, the majority (over 95 percent) of the centers opened before 7:30am. Others also closed a little earlier than stipulated. There were various reasons for the delayed start and early closure. They included:
A. Lateness in setting up of equipment
B. Delays in logging-in and late arrival of center staff
C. Some of the centers closed earlier than the stipulatedtime of 6.00pm. (This was often due to equipment failure,particularly the breakdown of printers, inclement weather, andthe shortage of some registration center supplies.)
Manycenters had the correct number of EC personnel during the exercise (a little over 50%).However, CODEO observers reported a significant number of registration centers without the required number of registration officials
In the absence of police oversight at some centers, unauthorized persons often entered a few centers unnoticed by the registration officials.For example, in Ntinako Polling Station in Bekwai, friends of party agents came to sit with the agents during the registration exercise.
Identity check of registrants
The criteriaforeligibility were not strictly adhered to. Identification documents or guarantors were not demanded at some polling centers in the rural areas and in close-knit communities in the urban centers where residentsappeared to know one another.For example, at the D/A Primary School at New Ankasa in the Jomoro District, a number of people were allowed to register without undergoing anyidentification procedure.
The Challenge procedure
The observers noted that the procedure for challenging suspected ineligible registrants were followed in most cases. Butthere wereproblems at centers in some urban areas due to weak understanding and/or inadequate explanation of the residency requirements/regulations for Voter Registration.Insomeof those areas, those who challenged the eligibility of prospective registrants chose to physicallyattackor restrain registrants they suspected to be ineligible. The most severe instances of thistendency often involved political party activists whose protests sometimesled toviolent clashes.The primary grounds for the challenges were age and residency. Challenges based on citizenship wererelatively few.Based on our preliminary analysis of part of the data collected, about 2% of registration centers recorded instances of challenges.
CODEO observers reported instances of registration staff experiencingdifficulties with the registration kit right from the commencement of the exercise. They include:
A. Difficultyto correctly log into the system
B. Unclear pictures
C. Difficultyto capture fingerprints
D. Outright breakdowns of the printer or the computer.
Though the technical challenges were oftenresolved, the time wasted in a few cases ran into days thus causing inconvenience to registrants who had to make a number of trips tothe centersbefore they got registered.When for example aprinter malfunctioned at Piitanga Workshop registration center in Nabdam, (Upper East region) it took four days for the problem to be resolved. In all, about 8% of registration centers recorded some form of equipment malfunction.
Incidence of Violence and Police Action
Our reports captured a few violent incidents across the country during the period. Conflict erupted in the first phase of the registration and halted the exercise for 3 daysat Arigu.This was because of a long lingering misunderstanding over constituency demarcation.Arigu isa farming community officially grouped under the West Mamprusi District in the Northern region, but physically located closer to Pwalugu in the Talensi-Nabdam Distrct of the Upper East region. The registration exercise resumed after the 3 days under heavy police presence.
The conflict led to the burning of 7 houses and irate residents of Guborigu (also in Arigu) taking hostage the NDC parliamentary aspirant for the area. The NDC parliamentary aspirant was released after police and military intervention. It is understood that five suspects were arrested but later released. Our records also captured assault incidents in Odododiodoo and Fadama in the Greater Accra region, Datano and Techiman in the Brong Ahafo region, and Kaase in the Asokwa constituency in the Ashanti region. In the Tafo-Pankrono district in the Ashanti region, ‘thugs’ riding on unregistered motorbikes attacked registration officials, destroyed registration kits and ran away. The docket has since been forwarded to the Kumasi Central Police Command. A similar incident took place at Kaase in the Asokwa constituency in the Ashanti region. Several other minor incidents of attacks, assaults, and harassment were also recorded in other parts of the country. In most of the incidents, victims refused or did not report to the police and the police wereyet to take action on the few cases that have been reported to them.
Close of Day Data management
The start-of-day and close-of-dayprotocols were not always observed. In addition, the routine of printing and issuing close-of-day reports to party agents were not strictly adhered to in some registration centers.Officials cited the frequent breakdown of registration equipment as the main reason fortheir failure to comply with the requirement.CODEO believes that if steps are not taken to resolve this problem (whatever its cause) itmay provide some persons and groups grounds for contesting the final voter registration figures.
The Registration exercise has been largely peaceful except in a few registration centers, particularly urban areas where some sporadic violent incidents have been recorded. Violence was not widespread. The fact that over 8million people have registered so far is evidence ofpeaceful registration exercise
- CODEO observers reported only few cases of attempted multiple registration.But CODEO deems it important that the EC and the courts prosecute as quickly as possible those individuals who attempted to register more than once.
- Equipment breakdown and slow process of repair and replacement are of great concern to CODEO. If the present situation with equipment cannot be improved before the elections then the EC should find a fall-back mechanism that is safe and acceptable to all stakeholders.
- The EC should enhance the capacity of its registration officers to enable them enforce compliance with correct procedure and to resist intimidationfrom all quarters. This is particularly relevantto the capacity of registration officers to manage the registration process.
- The EC should re-state in a clearer manner what it means to be ordinarily resident and therefore eligible to register in a given electoral division.
- CODEO entreats the EC and the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, as a matter of urgency, to address the constituency demarcation disputes prevailing in Pwalugu in the Upper East region and in Arigu and Guborigu in the Northern region before December 7.
- We also entreat the District and Regional Security Committees, and the police in the two regions to intensify monitoring in the same areas, especially in the period before the December 7 elections.
- We urge citizens to report all assault cases to the police and not take the law into their own hands.
- We entreat the Police Service to be professional in dealing with violence and other electoral offences in order to improve their public image, and enhance public confidence and trust in the Service and the entire electoral process. The police should also expedite action on their investigations into all reported cases and bring the culprits to book.
- CODEO calls on all political parties, particularly the NPP and NDC and their supporters, to take the numerous incidents of inter- party violenceas an early warning signal. CODEO further calls on the political parties, together with the government, EC and Police Service and in fact all Ghanaians to reflect soberly on those unsavory incidents and what could be done to avoid a recurrence.
- And finally on a related development regarding media reportage: to avoid inflaming passions during live broadcast, the media should use signal delay technology and other mechanisms to cut out inflammatory statements. It is incumbent all of us to not take our relative peace and stability for granted.
Thank you, you may now want to discuss these issues or ask for clarifications.
Prof. Miranda Greenstreet,