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New Voters register: the common sense approach

There have been a lot of back and forth on the new voters register and rightly so because of the polarization characterizing the political atmosphere in Ghana.

The position of an Electoral Commissioner in Ghana is the most unenviable one amongst all other sensitive appointments. From the choice of the Commissioner through the subsequent operations of the commission, there have always been suspicion, bickering, name calling, swearing and beating of war drums by the two leading political parties (NDC and NPP).

As always, thanks to the proverbial attitude of the vulture in Ghana, all sensitive national issues are swept under the carpet and deemed resolved until those matters rear their ugly heads again. As long as the appointment to that sensitive office is done by political actors, the palpable tension in Ghana largely in the lead up to national elections would not abate.

Now, concerning the proposed compilation of a new electoral register for 2020 elections, the posture of the NDC and NPP is irreconcilable and eventually it is the ordinary Ghanaian who would bear the brunt of their intransigence.

The whole world and in particular Ghana is grappling with the conundrum of the COVID-19 pandemic. As if that is not enough, the albatross of election 2020 also hangs on the slender necks of Ghanaians.

The compilation of the new register presents another challenge for all Ghanaians. I leave out the legal ramifications, qualification document for the exercise and the cost factor for another day.

In embarking on a massive national exercise leading to the registration of all Ghanaians, it would be simplistic for us to just talk about ensuring the safety of all eligible registrants and registration officials at the registration centres adequately across the length and breadth of Ghana.

Beyond the provision of PPEs for the registration officers and observing all the health and safety protocols at all registration centres, we are very much aware of scenarios where political parties bus people to specific electoral areas especially because of parliamentary elections. Aside political agents carting people en masse to registration centres, individuals who desire to vote for their preferred parliamentary candidates would crisscross electoral areas during the period.

Have we thought of the potential collateral damage the compilation of the new register could pose to the concerted effort against the COVID-19 pandemic in the country?

Finally, since only the Ghana card and a travelling passport are the two document recognized by the electoral commission, Ghanaians would have to go through the remainder of NIA card registration to qualify for the EC registration since few Ghanaians have the travelling passport.

After obtaining the Ghana card, one would have to go through the EC mass registration, followed by exhibition of the registration details of electorates for verification of bio-data and then comes the almighty elections 2020. Why would Ghanaians have to go through all these hurdles amidst the turbulence of the COVID-19 pandemic?

My recommendation is that all mass national exercises like the rest of the work of the NIA, GSS population and housing census and the new register should be suspended with immediate effect. The EC could just focus on limited registration for first time voters, followed by general cleaning up of the current register through exhibition, failing which Ghana might witness a spike in the case count in the COVID-19 pandemic. God save our homeland.

(CLEMENT ADJEI SARFO, THE CRUSDAER, sarfo22@yahoo.com)

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