The Supreme Court of Ghana has decided that the existing voter ID card and birth certificates cannot be used as proof of identity to register in the upcoming voter registration exercise.
This judgement effectively throws out the challenge by the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and a private citizen, Mark Takyi-Banson, who were before the Court questioning the Electoral Commission’s (EC) decision to compile an entirely new register and exclude the existing voter ID.
In the court’s judgement, it said: “It is hereby ordered that all stakeholders and the Ghanaian eligible voters are directed to comply with Articles 42 and 45 of the constitution… in carrying out their constitutional mandate in the compilation of a new voters register.”
Article 42 of the constitution defines who is qualified to register to vote and states that: “Every citizen of Ghana of 18 years of age or above and of sound mind has the right to vote and is entitled to be registered as a voter for the purposes of public elections and referenda.”
Article 45 deals with the functions of the EC, which includes the compilation and revision of the voters register during periods “as may be determined by law.”
By its decision, the Supreme Court has also halted all actions pending against the EC on the voter registration in any Court.
This will affect the Ashaiman Member of Parliament, Ernest Norgbey, who filed an action at the High Court questioning the power of the EC to compile a new register.
The Court was constituted with Chief Justice Kwasi Anin-Yeboah as President, Justice Jones Dotse, Justice Paul Baffoe Bonnie, Justice Sule Gbadegbe, Justice Samuel Marful-Sau, Justice Nene Amegatcher and Justice Ashie Kotey.
The parties involved in the suit were sharply divided over the Court’s direction.
The court, upon dismissing some of the reliefs sought by the NDC and Mark Takyi-Banson, directed the EC to go ahead with the voter registration exercise as scheduled.
The Court also said the registration should be conducted in line with the Public Elections (Registration of Voters) Regulations 2012, C.I. 91 as amended as the newly passed Public Elections (Registration of Voters) Regulations, 2020 C.I. 126.
This, however, left the parties at odds over whether the court upheld the use of the existing voter ID card as proof of identity for the purposes of registration or not.
The NDC’s General Secretary, Johnson Asiedu Nketia, said his side was “most grateful” after the judgement and proclaimed that “we feel vindicated.”
The Attorney General’s office however held that the commission had walked out of the court with a favourable outcome.
How we got here
On June 9, Parliament voted to allow the EC to use the Ghana Card and Passports as the only forms of identification for persons registering to vote after relevant Constitutional Instrument had matured.
The EC presented the Public Election (Amendment) Regulation, 2020 (C.I. 126) to Parliament to amend C.I. 91 in order to change the current identification requirements.
But the NDC felt this amendment would lead to many Ghanaians being disenfranchised and was opposed to it even before it had been passed in Parliament.
In the midst of the suit, the EC, in its legal justification for the amendment, described the current voter ID as “a fruit from a poisoned tree” because it was a breach of Article 42 of the constitution.
The Commission cited the court’s judgement in the Abu Ramadan case, where it indicated that the use of the National Health Insurance Card to register a voter is inconsistent with Article 42 of the constitution and therefore void.