With barely four months to go for the November 2016 elections, Member of Parliament for Ablekuma West is warning of dire consequences if manual voting is allowed to take precedence over the No Verification No Vote (NVNV) rule.
Ursula Owusu Erkuful told Joy News’ Parliamentary correspondent Elton John Brobbey polling stations will be turned into “veritable war zones” on Election Day if manual voting is allowed.
He was speaking on the new Electoral Commission Constitutional Instrument laid before Parliament to regulate the conduct of the 2016 elections.
The Instrument is in the process of going through its mandatory 21 day period to mature into law. With just two working days in the countdown, Ursula Owusu is raising serious issues about sections of CI she believes could trigger violence in the elections.
Key amongst those issues is the annulment of the no verification, no vote rule which was used in the 2012 elections under CI 75 law.
Per that rule all registered voters are expected to be verified by a biometric machine before they are allowed to vote.
In the 2012 elections some voters were disenfranchised completely while others, largely the influential people within some constituencies were favored to vote despite a challenge by the verification machine to capture them.
The No Verification, No Vote (NVNV) rule became one of the major issues raised by the New Patriotic Party which challenged the outcome of the elections at the Supreme Court.
Ahead of the 2016 elections, the Electoral Commission is seeking to change the NVNV rule to make it possible for voters to cast their ballots if the machines fail to capture their details.
Section 31 (5) of the new document, Public Election Regulation, 2016, said “Where the biometric verification device fails to verify a voter and the red light is shown with a voice message “REJECTED” the polling assistant shall;
(a) inform the agents of the political parties present at the polling station”
The voter will then be allowed to vote if all the agents agree. This Ursula Owusu maintains is a recipe for disaster.
She wished the EC heeded to the advice of the political parties which insisted on the NVNV.
She said by resorting to manual voting the EC is saying “it doesn’t care how the ballot papers get into the box; if they do the EC will count it.”
Ursula Owusu said with all the parties acquiescing that elections must be won at the polling stations, any decision to allow manual voting will be recipe for chaos.
She argued it is better to disenfranchise the few who may not be able to be verified rather than turn the polling stations into war zones.
When Elton John Brobbey drew her attention to the fact the new law has made provision for all the agents to agree before an unverified voter casts a ballot, Mrs. Ursula Erkufu said that is no panacea.
She cited a situation in the Akwatia bye election in which agents were manhandled, some beaten and sacked from the station and argued, if agents are subjected to such hostile treatments in November, which she said is a possibility, what happens to the new law on NVNV?
A former Director of Operations of the EC who is now with election observers, CODEO, Albert Arhin, agreed in part with the views of Ursula Owusu.
Whilst subtly agreeing to a replacement of the NVNV, he said the polling stations will be “acrimonious” if the decision to allow an unverified voter to cast his or her ballot is left to agents.
He would rather the presiding officer is allowed to take that decision