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Civil society hails GH¢50m for Biometric Voter Register


Civil society hails GH¢50m for Biometric Voter Register

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THE Executive Director of the Danquah Institute, Asare Otchere-Darko, has welcomed government's decision to vote funds for the Electoral Commission to replace the voters register through a biometric registration exercise. This comes after months of uncertainty over the funding for the use of this technology for the 2012 general elections.

Kwabena Duffuor made this announcement yesterday when he presented to Parliament the 2011 supplementary budget in his  mid-year review of the 2011 budget statement.

The Finance Minister indicated that based on the budget submitted by the Electoral Commission, over GH¢80.0 million is needed for the biometric exercise for the 2012 electoral process, of which GH¢50.8 million would be required in 2011.
Government has, decided to release GH¢50.0 million this year to the EC, which some observers believe may be behind its own schedule for the exercise.

In an interview with the New Statesman, the DI man, whose policy think tank has been at the forefront of championing for the adoption of this technology as a means of further enhancing Ghana's electoral process, stated that this development is indeed welcome as this has vindicated DI's long-held stance that the introduction of biometric voter registration would go a long way in protecting the integrity of the 2012 elections.

However, of prime concern to the Executive Director of DI, was the timetable of the EC for the implementation of this involving registration exercise.

According to reports, “the EC only on Tuesday, 12th July 2011, opened tenders submitted by the seven shortlisted companies out of a total number of 47 companies across the world who responded to the advertisement by the EC. What this means is that the EC is yet to identify a company that will undertake this exercise. We think this process has been unduly delayed knowing the EC had plans as far back as 2009 to introduce biometric voter registration for the 2012 elections”, Gabby explained.

He wondered whether this apparent delay was due to late release or funds or late implementation of the programme by the EC itself.

He continued, “The Electoral Commission, so far, hasn't come out to tell Ghanaians if the delay by government in releasing funds for the biometric registration exercise has in anyway affected the timetable for the registration. We are also concerned by the intention of the EC to complete this entire exercise by October next year. That is cutting it too close to the December 2012 race”.

Shedding more light on this, Gabby explained that since this exercise involved the introduction of a new technology into Ghana's electoral process, adequate preparation was therefore needed by the EC, political parties and the voting public to ensure a smooth election in 2012.

“What we know is that it could take the EC from 6 to 11 months to fully implement this. The EC has to undertake voter education and explain what this new technology is all about. In addition to this the EC will have to crosscheck the collected data to remove any duplicity  to compile a register which is full-proof to the satisfaction of all political parties and Ghanaians and issue biometric voter ID cards with time to spare before December 7, 2012,” Gabby said.

“Political parties as well require enough time to adequately train their polling station executives to fully grasp this new process. With barely 16 months to the 2012, we are worried the EC may hurriedly rush through these important processes which could spell trouble”, Gabby added.

Gabby is also calling for the Electoral laws to be amended to introduce clear and stiffer punishment for those arrested for registering more than once and other related electoral offences.

The Danquah Institute has also advocated for a system which can also verify the finger prints of registered voters on Election Day as a means of combating multiple voting in the 2012 elections.

“Our research reveals that small population Gambia shifted from its traditional voter registration system to biometric system for this year's general elections at a cost of US$2.3 million. Bangladesh spent $65 million when it introduced biometric voter registration for its 80 million voters. So if we are spending in the region of $60 million dollars on this technology, then there must be a mechanism that will correctly identify a voter on election day to prevent multiple voting,” Gabby explained.

Gabby proposed the introduction of a system similar to that being used in Jamaica. He explained that in Jamaica's elections of 2007, they employed the use of the Electoral Voter Identification and Ballot Issuing System (EVIBIS), which is a computerised method of verifying fingerprints, similar to those used here in E-Zwich or by immigration officials in the United States.

According to Gabby, with EVIBIS, registered electors are identified and verified at the polling station by using their fingerprints after which the system will issue authenticated ballots for voting. The elector will then proceed as before to thumbprint the paper ballot issued as it is done always.

By Fiifi Arhin

Source: The Statesmanonline



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