Ghana to register about 12 million voters biometrically in 40 days

Ghana’s Electoral Commission has projected that it will biometrically register 12 million eligible voters in 40 days, for the country’s upcoming elections scheduled for December 7, 2012, when the much debated registration exercise takes off on March 24, 2012.

Disclosing this Wednesday March 7, 2012 in Accra at a roundtable discussion organised by the Institute for Democratic Governance (IDEG), Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, Chairman of the Electoral Commission (EC), stated; “We will be doing our registration in 40 days and we do not expect to go far beyond 12 million”.

The EC Chairman said the projection is based on figures so far received from the Statistical Service of Ghana on Ghana’s last census conducted in 2010.

He explained that although the final report on the census has not been released by the Statistical Service, the regional and national figures have been computed and forwarded to them, apart from the district figures which are yet to be completed by the Service.

Dr. Afari-Gyan, who was addressing the forum as one of four panellists on the topic “Biometric Voters’ Registration and Verification System in West Africa: Nigeria’s Experience, Ghana’s Perspective”, said based on the success of the pilot in certain areas of the country, the EC was optimistic that an average of between 100 to 120 persons would be registered daily at registration (polling) centres across the country, when the exercise gets underway, adding that it may be more at some centres.

The other panellists were Prof. Attahiru Muhammadu Jega, Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Nigeria; Dr. Jibrin Ibrahim, Director, Centre for Democratic Development (CDD)-West Africa, Nigeria and Mr. Kwesi Jonah, Senior Research Fellow, IDEG, while Dr. Emmanuel Akwetey, Executive Director, IDEG chaired the discussion.

Disclosing some of the challenges that were encountered during the pilot, Dr. Afari-Gyan said it had been observed capturing fingerprints could be a basis for delays, since it is dependent on a person’s nature of work.

He divulged that it was observed those with course or greasy palms as well as wrong positioning of persons registering made one spend more time having fingerprints captured by the device.

“Some people by the nature of the work they do, have lost the fine line on the fingers and is very difficult to capture,” he said.

In view of this, he said it had been decided that the fingerprint slab of the equipment will be cleaned after every five people have been registered, while water and wipes will be made available for cleaning of fingers and registering officials told to pay particular attention to positioning of persons registering.

According to the EC Chairman, it has also been observed that prevailing weather conditions at a place have some effect on the biometric equipment, while when new batteries are installed, the equipment takes time to respond, and so if a battery is replaced, officials need to exercise patience for the equipment to be reactivated.

“Batteries left in the equipment for a long time also affects its functioning” he said, revealing that during the pilot at Ellembele in the Western Region, the equipment froze and had to be replaced after only 28 people had been registered.

Touching on equipment that will be used for identification or verification on voting day, he intimated it will cost about US $30 million for 23,000 units and about 7,000 backup units.

Prospective voters will be cleared to vote when the equipment authenticates their fingerprints with a green light, the positioning of which will be determined by the Inter Party Advisory Committee (IPAC), Dr. Afari-Gyan hinted.

Responding to the various comments that have been passed on the biometric registration process, the EC Chair stated, “We know what we are doing – whether insults or no insults, we know what we are doing and we will do it and take responsibility.”

The roundtable discussion was held in partnership with the Civic Forum Initiative and supported by the European Commission, Star-Ghana and the African Capacity Building Foundation.

By Edmund Smith-Asante

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