The Electoral Commission (EC) has suspended its planned compilation of a new voters register because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
It was initially scheduled for April 18, 2020, but no new date has been announced.
When asked by the media of the status of the compilation exercise, the EC’s Director of Electoral Services, Dr. Serebour Quaicoe, said it was “suspended… so it can’t be the 18th [of April].”
He also said the commission is collaborating with health experts to decide on a more favourable date depending on the prevalence rate of the virus.
“We had planned to do the registration on the [18th of April] but because of the pandemic, we can’t do it on the 18th so we are observing what is happening around Ghana and the global issue,” Mr. Quaicoe said to the press.
This announcement was expected following earlier comments made by the General Secretary of the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP), John Boadu, after the meeting Wednesday.
He said the date for the registration was “likely to change depending on how it [the handling of the virus] goes.”
His comments also came after the EC said it will announce a new date for the compilation of the new register.
Currently, he said the commission is “feverishly” putting in place its plans
“The software for the new register is almost ready. They [the EC] are waiting for the hardware,” he added.
Why the need for the registration?
The EC has said it wants to ensure that the register that is used on the election day is more credible and efficient than the existing one hence the need for a new Biometric Voter Management System (BVMS).
The Commission is asking to replace its biometric machines to better address verification challenges that could occur during elections.
A key new feature the EC cited is the introduction of a facial recognition option in addition to fingerprint verification.
The EC first made the announcement on March 27, 2019, and has been granted GHS390 million to carry out a registration exercise over a period of 50 days.
It also plans to make the Ghana Card and passport the only acceptable identification for the upcoming voter registration, but the announcement has been received with mixed reaction.
Opposition to new register
The move for the new register has been met with opposition from key political stakeholders, including the main opposition party, the National Democratic Congress (NDC).
The opposition party called on Ghanaians to reject the EC’s plans because it felt the commission was yet to present a compelling argument for the compilation of a new register.
Over the course of deliberations, it has even walked out of a meeting with the EC.
The Inter-Party Resistance Against New Voter Register, a group made up of the NDC, the Progressive People’s Party (PPP), Convention People’s Party (CPP), People’s National Convention (PNC), Eagle Party, All People’s Party (APC) and the Great Consolidated Popular Party (GCPP) have on three occasions demonstrated to express their disappointment against the EC’s decision.
Most recently, the NDC has sued the EC over the matter arguing that the commission lacks the power to go ahead with its plans because it can only “compile a register of voters only once, and thereafter revise it periodically, as may be determined by law.”