The Electoral Commission (EC) has said that it cannot delete the names of people who registered using National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) cards from the voters’ register.
However, the EC says it is committed to ensuring the Supreme Court’s order to the Commission to clean up the country’s voters’ register, is followed.
According to the EC, the Supreme Court’s ruling stated that the use of NHIS cards to register was “lawful at the time of registration” and that “the subsequent declaration of unconstitutionality in the earlier Abu Ramadan case, does not automatically render them void.”
The EC said the Supreme Court did not declare registration done with NHIS cards at the time null and void, as doing so “would have the effect of disenfranchising the persons affected. Such registrations should only be deleted by means of processes established under the law”
The statement signed by a Deputy Chair of the Commission in charge of Corporate Services Georgina Opoku Amankwaa added: “As an institution that derives its existence from the law, the Electoral Commission cannot be seen to be acting arbitrarily.”
“We are delighted that the Supreme Court agrees with us on this position. In complying with the directives of the Apex Court, the Commission intends to fully follow the applicable law.”
In its ruling on a case brought against the EC by the former National Youth Organizer of the People’s National Convention (PNC), Abu Ramadan and Evans Nimako, the Supreme Court described the current voters’ register as ‘reasonably inaccurate.’
It directed that the EC remove the names of all people who takes steps immediately to”delete or as is popularly known ‘clean’ the current register of voters” of all who have not “established qualification to be registered” as well as the names of all deceased persons and minors.
The Court had earlier ruled that the possession of NHIS cards did not qualify people who are of age to be registered.
The case and the judgment by the court has generated widespread public interest.
Several groups, including the main opposition party, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and pro-opposition groups like the Let My Vote Count Alliance (LMVCA) have accused the EC of failing to ensure the credibility of the voters’ register with six months to go until the November polls
However the EC rejected these assertions, stating that it had already begun implementing the recommendations made by the Supreme Court although it had not received a copy of the ruling.
The Electoral Commission and its legal advisers have carefully studied the recent judgment of the Supreme Court on May 5, 2016 in respect of the case of “Abu Ramadan & Evans Nimako vrs The Electoral Commission & The Attorney-General”.
The Commission confirms that it accepts the ruling of the Supreme Court which ordered that:
(a) The Electoral Commission takes steps immediately to delete or as is popularly known ‘clean” the current register of voters to comply with the provisions of the 1992 Constitution, and applicable laws of Ghana;
(b) Any person whose name is deleted from the register of voters by the Electoral Commission pursuant to order (a) above be given the opportunity to register under the law.
The Commission is of the view that the directives of the Apex Court are clear and emphasize the processes already laid down in the law for cleaning the voters’ register. The Supreme Court was of the view that these processes are ‘ample and sufficient’ to remove the names of ineligible and deceased persons from the register.
The Supreme Court essentially held as follows:
1. That the Electoral Commission has a duty to compile a credible register, and in so doing, must act within the remits of the Constitution and applicable law.
2. That the existing law has made ample and sufficient provisions for ineligible names to be deleted during the exhibition of the provisional register but such deletions must be in accordance with the applicable law;
3. For persons who registered with NHIA cards, such registrations were lawful at the time of registration, and the subsequent declaration of unconstitutionality in the earlier Abu Ramadan case, does not
‘automatically render them void’. Such a position according to the Supreme Court, “would have the effect of disenfranchising the persons affected. Such registrations should only be deleted by means of processes established under the law”.
4. The process of validation proposed by the petitioners is without statutory authority and in “carrying out its functions, the Electoral Commission cannot employ non-statutory remedies”.
Further, the Supreme Court unanimously rejected the following reliefs requested by the Petitioners:
1. That the current register of voters is unconstitutional, null and void and of no effect;
2. That the Electoral Commission be compelled to compile a fresh Register of voters;
3. That the Electoral Commission be compelled (as an alternative to compiling a new register), to audit the current Register of voters through validation of the registration of each person currently on the register (as defined by the petitioners).
The Judgment of the Supreme Court affirms the Commission’s consistent position on the status of the current Voters’ register and the mechanisms for cleaning it, to make it acceptable to all stakeholders. The EC remains willing and committed to ensuring a clean register prior to the elections in accordance with the law.
However, the Commission wishes to remind the public that all stakeholders in the political process have a key duty to support and work with the Commission in ensuring a cleaner and more credible register.
As unanimously agreed by all the political stakeholders at an earlier Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC) meeting in March this year, the mechanisms outlined by the Commission for cleaning the register are Inclusive, Collaborative, Legal and Transparent.
It must be noted that the EC by itself, has no power under any law currently in force, to unilaterally delete the names of persons from the register.
For the avoidance of doubt, we wish to state that under the existing and applicable law, where a person’s registration is challenged during a registration process, that challenge must be referred to a District Registration Review Committee (DRRC) for determination.
The EC is only permitted to act on the decision of the DRRC following the determination of the challenge to delete or maintain the name of the challenged person on the register.
Similarly, for persons who are already on the Provisional Register, the law requires that an objection is made during the exhibition process either by a registered voter or an official of the Commission.
These objections are then referred to the District Registration Review Officer (DRRO) for determination. The Commission is required by the law to act on the decision of the DRRO following determination of the objection.
As an institution that derives its existence from the law, the Electoral Commission cannot be seen to be acting arbitrarily.
We are delighted that the Supreme Court agrees with us on this position. In complying with the directives of the Apex Court, the Commission intends to fully follow the applicable law.
The Commission is urging all stakeholders in the political process to join us in working to ensure a cleaner register ahead of this year’s election.
Finally, the Commission looks forward to working with all citizens of Ghana towards ensuring a peaceful, transparent, trusted, independent and world-class electoral process.
GEORGINA OPOKU AMANKWAA
Deputy Chair (Corporate Services)
By: Edwin Kwakofi/ghanadecides