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Biometric Voter Registration: What You Should Know

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series Ghana Elections 2012

In the face of advancing ICT trends and emerging challenges in manual voter registration, the Electoral Commission of Ghana has taken the bold decision to replace the current voters’ register with a biometric register for subsequent elections.

What is Biometric Voter Registration?

Biometric voter registration involves the use of biometric technology in voter registration. Biometric technology is the use of computers, fingerprint scanners and digital cameras to capture the bio-data of applicants. Fingerprints are unique to every individual and it is these unique features and other details that will be stored in the computer from which the voters register is produced.

Why Biometric Voter Registration?

The old method of registering voters did not have an in-built mechanism for detecting multiple registrations and therefore, there were instances where some unscrupulous individuals registered more than once. With biometric technology, the detection and removal of multiple registrations from the system will be made possible with relative ease thus, a more accurate and reliable register will be produced for Election 2012 and subsequent elections.

What are the implications of replacing the existing Voters’ Register? 

The upcoming registration exercise which starts on March 24 and ends on May 5,  will result in the compilation of an entirely new voters register that will replace the existing voters register and all previous voter I.D cards. Every registered voter must therefore anew under the biometric voter registration system. Citizens who have now turned 18 years are also eligible to register as voters.

Who qualifies to register as a voter?

Only Ghanaian citizens who are;

  • 18 years or above.
  • of a sound mind.
  • resident or ordinarily resident in an electoral area or are permitted by law to register in an electoral area.
  • not prohibited by any law in force from registering as a voter are qualified to register as voters.

When will registration take place?

The biometric voter registration exercise will commence on Saturday, March 24 through to Saturday, May 5. Changes in the said date will be announced in the media by the Electoral Commission.

Where will registration take place?

Registration of voters will take place at all registration centres (polling stations) through out the country. Qualified applicants are expected to visit the registration centre (polling station) in the electoral area where they live in person, to apply for registration. Please note that, your registration centre will be your polling station on election day.


How will registration be done?

The biometric voter registration will be done in clusters simultaneously in all regions across the country. This means that, a team of registration officials with a set of registration equipments (kit) will be assigned to a number of polling stations in an electoral area. The team will operate in each registration centre (polling station), for a period of 10 days and move to another registration centre within the cluster for another 10 days. The team will spend 10 days in each registration centre until all registration centres or polling stations in the electoral area are covered.

Electoral areas that are large and have more polling stations will be assigned two or more registration teams. It is quite clear from this arrangement that, there is no need to panic or worry if the registration team is not at your polling station at the start of the exercise (ie. March 24). You will eventually have your turn.

What is the time for registration?

Registration will start at 7:00 am and end at 6:00 pm each day of the registration period, including Saturdays and Sundays.

Will there be an extension?

There will NOT be an extension of registration period in any registration centre after the 10 days allowed. However, there will be a limited period for mopping-up. Mopping-up may entail the applicant travelling in some cases. You need not bring that burden upon yourself so take advantage of the 10 days that the team will be at your registration centre or polling station to register as a voter.

What does the registration process entail?

1. As an applicant, you must be physically present at the registration centre during the registration period to provide the following information to the Registration Officer;

  • name
  • date of birth
  • age
  • gender/sex
  • residential address or house number of your present abode
  • the names of your parents (dead/alive)
  • your hometown/residential address in hometown if different from present abode
  • district within which your hometown is located

2. The fingerprints of all your ten fingers will be electronically captured using a fingerprint scanner. The four fingers of your right hand will be captured first, followed by the four fingers of your left hand and finally thumbprints of both right and left thumbs are taken simultaneously.

3. In addition to taking your fingerprints, a passport-sized photograph of you will be taken on the spot. This photograph will be printed on your voter ID card and in the voters register.

4. Unless your application for registration as a voter is challenged, you will be issued with a voter ID card instantly at the point of registration. Please wait to collect your ID card before you leave the registration centre. If your application for registration as a voter is challenged, you will be issued with a voter ID card only if you are cleared by the District Registration Review Committee (DRRC) set up in every district to investigate and determine the challenges.

 

What happens when my application for registration is challenged?

An applicant’s registration as a voter, may be challenged by anybody who qualifies to be registered as a voter. A challenge on the eligibility of an applicant to register as a voter will not stop him/her from going through the process if he/she insists that he/she is qualified. The applicant will be allowed to go through the process as expected but but he/she will not be issued with a voter ID card until the challenge is determined by the District Registration Review Committee (DRRC). If an applicant is challenged, both the applicant and the challenger will appear before the DRRC for hearing and determination of challenge.

On what grounds can an applicant’s registration be challenged?

An applicant’s registration may be challenged on the grounds that, he or she;

  • is not a citizen of Ghana.
  • is a minor (less than 18 years old).
  • is not of a sound mind.
  • is not resident in the electoral area.
  • is already registered as a voter.
  • is not the person he/she claims to be (impersonation).
  • is prohibited by law from registering as a voter.

What is the duty of the District Registration Review Committee (DRRC)

A District Registration Review Committee will be set up in every district to investigate and determine registration challenges in the respective districts. An applicant or challenger who is not satisfied with the decision of the DRRC may appeal to the Chief Registration Review Officer who is a High Court Judge in the region for a review of that decision.

Custody of your voter ID card

The voter ID card is issued primarily for voting. Keep it safely because you will need it for voting. Do not surrender your ID card to anybody demanding it unless required by law. You may loose your vote by doing so.

Don’ts!

The following actions constitutes unlawful acts, punishable by imprisonment;

  • do not register or attempt to register as a voter if you are not qualified.
  • do not register or attempt to register more than once, whether at the same registration centre or any other centre.
  • do not register or attempt to register as a voter in the name of another person, dead or alive.
  • do not by force or threat of force (physical or spiritual), prevent somebody from exercising his right to register as a voter.
  • do not give false information to a registration officer for the purpose of securing registration.
  • do not forge, willfully deface or destroy any official notice, paper or document relating to the registration of voters.
  • do not print any form relating to the registration of voters, without authority from the Electoral Commission.
  • do not disrupt proceedings at a registration centre or in anyway, interfere with the work of an official connected with the registration of voters.
  • do not bring to the registration centre, any electronic device that will interfere with the operation or performance of the registration equipment (kit).

Voter ID card offences

  • It is an offence for any person to be in possession of another person’s voter ID card with the express consent of that person.
  • No political party or any other organization shall be in possession of the voter ID card of any of its members or any other person without the express written consent of that member or person.
  • Any person who finds a lost voter ID card, must surrender it to the district officer of the Electoral Commission or a police officer in charge of the nearest police station within 7 days of the find or else be deemed to be in unlawful possession of another person’s voter ID card.
  • A police officer to whom a lost voter ID card has been surrendered shall surrender it to the district officer of the Electoral Commission within 7 days of it being given to him or else be deemed to be in unlawful possession of another person’s voter ID card.

Penalty for unlawful possession of another person’s voter ID card

  • Any person convicted of unlawful possession of another person’s ID card is liable to a fine not exceeding 500 penalty units or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years for each voter ID card held unlawfully.
  • Any political party, organization or group of persons convicted of unlawful possession of a voter ID card is liable to a fine not exceeding 1000 penalty units for each voter ID card held unlawfully.

General advice

  • Register in your electoral area at a centre close to your residence.
  • Keep your voter ID card safe and neat for voting on Election Day.
  • Avoid multiple registrations, since the biometric voter registration system will expose you and you will be liable for prosecution. Avoid impersonation!
  • If you loose your vote ID card, report promptly to the police.
  • Since only qualified Ghanaian citizens are allowed to register as voters, it will be helpful if applicants show one of the following; birth certificate, baptismal card, passport, drivers’ license, NHIS card, National ID card or existing voter ID card.

CREDIT: The Electoral Commission of the Republic of Ghana.


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Written by Ace Bafo



The Nocturnal With An Empire-State-Of-Mind.


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