Registering citizens to vote and compiling a voters register is a critical part of the electoral process, a basic foundation of our democratic system. It is therefore no surprise that the constitution mandates, and citizens expect an independent, objective, and impartial Commission to conduct transparent, free and fair elections. An election conducted on these terms informs the people their representatives are a true reflection of their vote.
The Electoral Commission (EC) is responsible for providing each political party on a timely basis, a clean Voters’ register. In this technological age, a clean Voters’ register is a Comma Separated Value(CSV) version of a Voters’ register with or without Portable Document Format (PDF) version. In 2012 and in 2016, the EC provided what for all intents and purposes was a useless document in the form of a PDF version of the Voters’ register. A PDF version of a Voters’ Register is a flat file. It is of no use to anyone except to compare one set of totals to another. A CSV version of a Voters’ Register however, is a file which enables enquiries to be made by a savvy I.T. professional to determine the accuracy, reliability and credibility of the Voters’ register. It can tell through analysis, details of duplicates, triplicates, multiplicates and other irregularities or actions relating to the Voters’ Register. It is the gold standard Voters’ register document that must be given to every party in any election. Yet, to this day, the NPP has NEVER seen a CSV version of a Voters’ register. This means that the NPP has NEVER been given the Voters’ register for any elections ever in the history of Ghana in this Fourth Republic.
THE ELECTION FRAUD MACHINE
A bloated Voters’ register, on its own does not produce a fraudulent election result, it is however, the ability of criminal elements to weaponize the voters’ register by transferring the fake names or phantom registrants to actual votes, that makes for a stolen election.
This is more so in Ghana where a Voters’ “fraud machine” which has perfected the art of transferring a bloated register into actual votes, exists. Sources inform us that a large percentage of the EC officials (District Managers, etc.) are NDC operatives who are part – of this criminal enterprise of rigging elections. These EC operatives staff the polling stations with known criminal elements who compromise polling stations and collation centers through their hiring and ensure their criminal purpose succeeds. A system of form-filling of polling station results has been in existence for over two decades. Which simply undermines the whole essence of the electoral system. This system has been perfected over the years, to the extent that there are some known polling stations and constituencies which are compromised to return pre-determined results in every election. A notable constituency is Ketu South. There are many others where analysis has shown that the results are just plainly false, and this exercise is possible where the party representatives of the two major parties tend to be double agents and turncoats.
THE 2012 ELECTION FRAUD
Since the Fourth Republic, every effort has been made by various persons to undermine the very essence of a free and fair election. Specifically, ballot-rigging through over-bloated Voters’ Registers, violence, intimidation, threats, abuse of incumbency, and process have been used to tamper with the electoral system to produce predetermined outcomes. It is interesting to note that when Ghana moved to a biometric system in the 2012 elections, all efforts were put in place to make it easier to rig the electoral process in a way unprecedented in the history of our country.
Here was a case where the ruling government, the NDC colluded with the Electoral Commission and its two critical contractors to rig the elections. The 2012 election rigging strategy by the NDC consisted of a two-pronged attack on the electoral system:
- To produce a fraudulent, over-bloated Voters’ Register with the active support of STL, a contractor of the Electoral Commission and to provide a PDF version of the Voters’ Register just days before the election. Thus, making it virtually impossible for the opposing parties to have a verifiable Voters’ Register on a timely basis in the form of a CSV version for the 2012 election.
- The EC ordered two sets of pink sheets through its contractor, Buck Press, for only the Presidential election(while ordering only one set for the parliamentary elections) and provided the additional Presidential set to the NDC to enable them produce fictitious results by filling the pink sheets and signing them to replace a proper election result in certain select constituencies and polling stations, which their knowledge of the CSV version of the Voters’ Register allowed them to do.
The lamentable and unfortunate fact is that the criminal conspiracy and collusion with a foreign company, working in conjunction with certain E.C. officials in the IT department, as well as the unwitting participation by a Ghanaian company working with high-level E.C. officials (Dr. Afari Gyan and Safo Kantanka) was never prosecuted; and no punitive or corrective action was taken against those who acted to corrupt our electoral system. This made a mockery of our democratic system.
It is worth noting that this criminal act which attacked the core foundation of our democracy went unchecked because Ghana’s legal system has been so thoroughly compromised as to make this country practically a lawless state. To be clear, a lawless state does not mean there are no laws in Ghana. Rather, it means that the laws of Ghana are ineffectual, toothless and often used to protect, rather than punish the very persons who are to enforce them. Recent Ghanaian criminal cases are placed in the Attorney General’s wasteland, never prosecuted or pretending to be prosecuted but slowly made to die.
EFFORTS TO OBTAIN A NEW VOTERS’ REGISTER IN 2016
The NPP knew before the 2016 election that the Voters’ register was over-bloated. The party made representations to international donors to assist in replacing the over-bloated register. Through analytical reviews, the NPP was able to convince the international donors that there was a prima facie case for a new Voters’ register to replace the bloated register, but the international donors requested substantive evidence to support the claim. Since substantive evidence could only be obtained through a CSV version of the voters’ register which the EC repeatedly and persistently refused to produce, it was therefore impossible to substantiate the allegations made through the analytical reviews. Thus, all efforts to get a new Voters’ register failed in 2016.
THE BARE STATISTICS OF THE CURRENT BLOATED REGISTER
To better understand the charge and allegation of an over-bloated register, consider the following facts: In 2012, Ghana’s population of 24,965,816 had a total number of registered voters of 14,031,763 which was equivalent to a whopping 56.2% of the total population eligible to vote. Kenya, with a population of 41,609,728 only had 14,362,189 which equates to only 34.1% of the population eligible to vote. Two of our West African neighbors, Nigeria and Senegal have similar figures. Nigeria with a population of 162,470,737 had 67,764,327 which represented 41.7% of the population registered to vote. And Senegal with a population of 12,767,556 had 5,302,349 which equated to 41.5% of the population registered to vote. The above supported the prima facie case for a new Voters’ register in 2016.
The 2012 bloated register was updated in 2016 by a limited registration exercise. In 2016, the registered voters increased to 15,712,505 voters. In 2018, a limited registration exercise to support the increase in the number of regions led to a further increase of 2,200,000 leading to approximately 18,000,000 voters. By so doing, if the EC were to conduct a similar limited registration exercise in 2020, the Voters’ register would be estimated to be approximately 20 million voters. This will be equivalent to an unthinkable 66% of the total estimated 30 million population of Ghana. It is argued that this is very unsatisfactory because it is estimated that in a fair election [where phantom names are not added to the tally of voters] the number of registered voters will be less than 10 million. This means that if we just increase the Voters’ register by a simple registration exercise, we will have a Voters’ register where the presence of a valid voter will be counterbalanced by the presence of an invalid voter. Suffice to say, the Voters’ register will be woefully inaccurate, over-bloated and unsuitable to produce a free and fair election. A clear opportunity for mischief and fraud therefore will exist if we merely undertake a limited registration exercise. And this becomes more critical considering that the vigilance that took place in the 2016 election which prevented a significant amount of fraud in the polling stations and the collation centers would not be replicated in 2020.
THE 2016 STRATEGY
The NPP was fully aware that the only way they could win the 2016 election was that fewer people would vote in 2016 than voted in 2012. This is because significant fraudulent numbers were introduced in 2012 based on the form-filling exercise undertaken by the NDC in producing fraudulent results. Indeed, as the results show, the total number of votes cast in the presidential election of 2016 was 10.6 million and the votes for 2012 was 11.8 million. We still contend that there were still significant fraudulent votes in the 2016 elections estimated to be between 2-3 million votes. With this knowledge, the NPP is aware that the NIA registration exercise was expected to produce about 2-3 million less registrants than the 1.5 million that certain critics allege as under-registration.
DEMOGRAPHIC AND OTHER TRENDS TO VOTERS’ REGISTER
The National Identification Authority(NIA) has come under increasing criticism for under-registering people in the Northern and Volta regions. However, these criticisms ignore demographic trends our country is facing. Demographically, population changes should affect the Voters’ Register. In Ghana, we’re facing migratory trends due to various reasons. One thing that is certain is that people are migrating from the Northern part of Ghana and the Volta region to Greater Accra and the Ashanti Region. However, it was painfully noticeable that notwithstanding all these migratory trends, the voting population of the Northern and Volta regions was going up during the time the register was bloated. It was therefore to be expected that a National Identification registration exercise and ultimately, a Voter Registration exercise would lead to a reduction in the numbers in the Northern and Volta regions. Furthermore, the form-filling exercise makes it difficult for anyone to challenge the accuracy and validity of the NIA registration exercise.
THE ROLE OF THE EC AND THE PUBLIC
The EC has a tough job to register voters and ensure clean and fair elections. However, we have noted that they are a bunch of unscrupulous people who are bent on disrupting the proper function of the EC because they do not want a new, clean Voters’ register. Considering the time pressures necessitated by the COVID-19 environment, it is imperative that the government use its powers to deal decisively with such miscreants and enforce the laws. No one should allow lawless people to undermine the proper functioning of a government. Moreso, when it affects the basic democratic foundation of our governance.
The importance of the impartiality, independence, and objectivity of the Electoral Commission cannot be overemphasized. To achieve an honest, free and fair election, the EC must be as transparent as possible in its decisions and actions. It must communicate adequately and honestly to the citizens and all parties involved. In particular, it must ensure that all political parties receive the two critical reports at each registration center each day of the registration exercise to ensure that each party can independently produce its own Voters’ Register and/or verify the accuracy of the Voters’ register. These two reports which are given to the parties each day at each registration center of the Voters’ register exercise should enable us to know the details of all Voters registering each day, as well as, the statistics such as gender, age group, etc. of the people registering to vote each day. The EC must communicate its footprints of the Voter registration exercise in the country, as well as abroad, to ensure that each party has proper representation at each registration center as well as obtain the proper reports each day at each registration center to allow each party to verify the accuracy, completeness and reliability of of the Voters’ register. The parties themselves must undertake an honest and faithful exercise of participating in the process with proper representation and ensuring that they obtain the necessary reports to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the Voters’ register.
The EC must provide to all the parties, at least 60-90 days before the election day, both the PDF and CSV versions of the Voters’ register to enable each party to independently verify the accuracy and completeness of the Voters’ register. The success of the Voter registration exercise is dependent on the EC as well as the parties and the voting public, it is therefore incumbent on all of us to play a vital role to ensure success by being compliant as much as possible. A sanitized Voters’ register is in the interest of Ghana and acts as the beginning of a transparent, free and fair election. Ghana deserves a new Voters’ register in 2020! Ghana deserves a transparent, free and fair election!
By Charles K. Amoo Asante M.A. International Affairs, Connecticut, USA, Kotoko2000@gmail.com | The views expressed by the writer are solely his and do not represent the position of Starrfm.com.gh