According to the commission, it now had the capacity to engage in the continuous registration of qualified voters.
Continuous registration, which is the opportunity for qualified applicants to walk into any office of the EC at any time to get themselves registered and their names added to the voters register, is provided for in Constitutional Instrument (CI) 72.
This means that apart from periodic national registration exercises prior to voting, any person who has attained the qualified age for voting or who, for some reason, does not have his or her name on the voters register can, at any time, walk into the offices of the EC to get registered.
Dr Afari-Gyan was speaking at a consultative forum on voter registration facilitated by the KAB Governance Consult in Accra Tuesday.
The forum brought together representatives of all the political parties, some civil society organisations, the Coalition of Domestic Election Observers (CODEO), the National Identification Authority (NIA), the media and other individuals and groups.
The EC has, however, been carrying out continuous registration, based on a Supreme Court ruling that the right to register as a voter is so fundamental that the EC cannot determine when Ghanaians can enjoy the right; that is, set particular times for the registration of voters.
But the continuous registration has, until now, been on very limited basis, since, according to the Chairman of the EC, Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, that could not be publicised because the EC had no capacity to contain the influx if an announcement were to be made.
Dr Afari-Gyan, in his introductory remarks, expressed satisfaction at the number of participants from political parties, saying that it showed that the parties were still active, even after an election year.
He said the forum, the first of its kind, was to broaden the EC’s consultations on its activities, the reason for inviting many civil society organisations.
Dr Afari-Gyan said since the 2012 elections, the EC had received many suggestions on how to improve upon its work, but none had been on voter registration, although a few suggestions had been received on continuous voter registration.
No verification, no vote
The forum brought up for discussion some of the challenges encountered in the previous elections, for instance, the verification of voters.
Dr Afari-Gyan, setting the issue in perspective, said political parties had to agree on what to do about voters who had properly been registered but could not enjoy the right to vote because the verification device could not verify their identities at the last minute.
He was of the view that a voter, having been properly identified in the register at the initial stage of the voting process and facing no resistance from other voters at the polling station, should not lose the right to vote at the last minute if the verification device could not validate his or her identity.
He, however, deferred the matter to the Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC), saying the parties had to further discuss the issue and reach a consensus on it.
Dr Afari-Gyan said the EC would, in the middle of the year, carry out a registration exercise for those whose names were not yet in the register.
He stressed that the exercise was for only those whose names were not on the voters register, adding, however, that when the register was subsequently exhibited, all had to participate in the exercise.
He explained that the involvement of all in the voters exhibition exercise was the civic responsibility of all Ghanaians who had to use the opportunity to ensure that the register was clean.
The General Secretary of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Mr Johnson Asiedu Nketia, was forthright in declaring that it was still the position of all the parties that, “No verification, no vote”.
A representative of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), Mr O. B. Amoah, said the NPP had already submitted its proposals for reforms to the EC.
Nevertheless, he wanted to know if the EC would involve political parties in the cleaning of the voters register.
He pointed out that the continuous registration exercise did not pre-empt the periodic mass registration exercises and said the challenge with the continuous registration exercise was that it was between the EC and the individual, thereby limiting the ability of parties to validate the applicant being registered.
Mr Kwesi Jonah of the Institute of Democratic Governance (IDEG) said by convention, political parties and other civil society organisations always observed the periodic mass voter registration exercise, pointing out, however, that with the continuous registration, that would be impracticable.
In an overview of past elections, a Deputy Chairman of the EC, Mr Amadu Sulley, said logistical, technological and operational challenges had been noted.
He said 6,000 multiple entries had been identified and referred to the police.
Source: Daily Graphic