The report of the Justice VCRAC Crabbe panel which the Electoral Commission (EC) appointed to deal with the issue of the register of voters estimates that nearly 600,000 names of dead people would be on the current register, if left unchanged. “This is too wide a margin to entertain,” the report warns.
Meanwhile, the EC is expecting political parties and citizens to come out during the exhibition of the voter register, scheduled to take place after March this year, to identify the dead as the only means of cleaning up the register. This formula has been criticised by the panel as “not a viable approach.”
“There are more than 100,000 estimated deaths each year of Ghanaian nationality, aged 18 years and older,” it maintained.
The report estimates the number of eligible voters going into this year’s general election to be 15,504,207, after the planned limited registration of March 2015. Out of this, it calculates the number of living people on the register, once fully compiled, to be not more than 14,535,987.
Members of the panel, chaired by former Supreme Court judge VCRAC Crabbe, were Most Rev Prof Emmanuel Asante, Dr Grace Bediako, Alhaji Bin Salih and Dr Nii Narku Quaynor.
The report continues, “Further analysis of data, based on the reported number registered in 2012 and 2014, shows that as many as 584,892 estimated number of voter deaths would have occurred cumulatively by the 2016 elections and may well remain in the register of voters.”
This constitutes about four per cent of the eligible voters on the electoral roll. The panel is worried about how this margin could be manipulated to inflate results.
The report points out that with such a large buffer of ghost names, manipulation of figures could take place either at the polling stations or collation centres. This is made possible because, “first, from the invalid records there are margins that can be mopped up by inflating the numbers of votes cast; second, from the eligible voters who do not turn up to vote, additional margins are introduced.”
The panel’s report continues, “To the extent that these accounts are true, the existence of such margins on the valid records undermines the quality of elections: such as transparency, fairness, validity and reliability of the results.”
To the panel, having minors and dead people on the electoral roll is enough to potentially affect the results. “The margin is too wide beyond the tolerance limit,” it stresses, “given that presidential elections are won by a much narrower margin.”
It explains, “The margin is almost twice the margin by which most presidential elections were won and more than ten times the margin in the preceding elections.”
The report expresses concern that in spite of the biometric register and biometric verification device, multiple or illegal voting still occurs.
It argues that even though there was “no verification no vote” in 2012, this “rule was not necessarily maintained across polling stations.” Thus, even with the NVNV mantra, illegal voting could not be ruled out in 2016, especially with a ‘bloated’ register.
No Verification No Vote
The five-member panel is even more worried about the new controversial suggestion by the EC that manual verification could be allowed in 2016, saying, “for the next elections it is not clear what will result from this condition being eliminated from the guidelines.”
The EC is insisting that the exhibition of the register allows parties and individuals sufficient opportunity to challenge suspicious entries in the register. However, the panel is not convinced and has raised serious concerns about the effectiveness of that procedure.
“Judging by the sheer numbers, the Electoral Commission’s proposition to display the register, with political parties, the Electoral Commission and citizenry to identify and point out invalid names is not a viable approach.”
Particularly, it goes on, “when the persons who identify these records are expected to expend their time, energy and resources not only to provide the evidence, but also to testify before a court of competent jurisdiction. The efficacy of the current provisions may be assessed by the fact that in spite of this system having been in place, there were 8,000 registrants in 2014 who may have been minors on the list since 2012.”
The panel therefore gives a damning verdict on the exhibition exercise. “The signal is that the system is not effective in achieving the set goals of eliminating invalid records from the register and must be reconsidered. It is said that you cannot do the same thing and expect different results.”
To the panel, it is not good enough “relying on the ordinary citizen to suggest who may not be eligible to vote or which names should not be in the register” for several reasons.
One is because “the list is not ordered in a way that would make it possible to spot invalid records; two, not enough time is given for the exercise; three, there is the assumption that people are known in their communities;
four, the potential for several persons having the same name.”
Also, it sees the exhibition of names at local centres as a “potentially confrontational” setup.
The panel rejects the proposal for a new register as not convincing but appears lost in how it hopes Ghana can go into this year’s crucial polls with a credible roll.
After making such a strong case on the weaknesses of the existing exhibition exercise, the panel strangely concluded without suggesting any other significant viable way of removing the 600,000 ghost names and minors from the register.
It recommends, “As the arguments for a new register are not convincing, the political parties and all citizens of Ghana should exercise vigilance and maturity when the Provisional Register of Voters is exhibited so that they check the entries and thereby help the Electoral Commission to have at the end of the exercise a register of voters as credible and as clean as possible. It is a shared responsibility.”
The EC organised a two-day public forum which took place on 29th and 30th October, 2015 at the Alisa Hotel, Accra.
This was occasioned by petitions and calls by some political parties, civil society groups and a number of Ghanaians for a new register or an audit of the existing one, all aimed at ensuring a credible register for credible elections this year.