KWAME NKRUMAH UNIVERSITY OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY, KUMASI
INSTITUTE OF DISTANCE LEARNING
DEPARTMENT OF HISTORY AND POLITICAL SCIENCE
THE CHALLENGES OF CONTINUOUS VOTER REGISTRATION UNDER THE C.I.91 IN THE WASSA AMENFI EAST MUNICIPAL, WESTERN REGION
JULIANA AKOSUA ASANTE, ESQ
(STUDENT NO: PG1096617)
A thesis submitted to the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi in partial fulfilment of the requirement for the degree of Master of Public Administration.
I do hereby declare that this thesis is my own work towards the award of master’s degree in Public Administration by this university, and that to the best of my knowledge it contains no material previously published by another nor material which has been accepted for the award of another degree of the university except where due acknowledgement has been made in the text.
JULIANA AKOSUA ASANTE ……………………………………. ………………..
CERTIFIED BY ………………………………… ………………….
DR EDWARD BRENYA
The conduct of free and fair election is central to the process of majority rule and participatory democracy. Therefore, an election process which is non-inclusive in its manner, potentially can breed loss of trust and confidence in its outcome, heighten discord and disagreement among political parties, weaken the credibility of elected officials, undermine their legitimacy to rule, ignite sporadic violence and at times start a civil war. For these reasons, it lies in the interest of every nation to take steps to ensure that the election processes conducted are as inclusive, open and accessible as possible.
An election is the complex process of a person deemed qualified under the election laws, rules and regulations of a country as set by its Election Management Body (EMB) and being allowed to participate in the activity of registering to vote and casting the vote to elect their leaders, usually a person or group of persons to hold official positions for a specified period of time.
What constitutes a credible election is difficult to define universally. However, there are some broadly accepted criteria which defines an election as credible. Firstly, a credible election should reflect the will of the people in the nation or region where the election is being conducted. Elections should not be seen as reflecting the will of a foreign power or government. Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that ‘the will of the general population should be the basis on which the authority of the governments should be based’. The declaration further stipulates that this will should be expressed in periodic elections, premised on universal suffrage, conducted through secret balloting or any form of manner deemed equivalent to a free voting process.
A second basic feature of a credible election is the requirement that the entire election process, from voter registration to the transmission of election results, must be trusted by the citizens.
Another very important feature for ensuring credible election is that it must be conducted in such a way as not to disenfranchise qualified applicants to vote or who present themselves to be voted for. According to Hounkpe and Fall (2011), building this trust in the populace by ensuring that anyone who qualifies to do so, get to take part in the process of choosing those who must lead is the most important challenge to organizations charged with managing elections across the world. As per Sartori (1994), credibility in an electoral process can be both actual or perceived. An election perceived by electorates as defective and non-inclusive is doomed to rejection either openly or covertly. The UN in its Universal Declaration of Human Rights notes that political competitors such as parties; candidates who seek to be elected, and their supporters; all have personal stakes in the constituent procedure by right to be chosen and to participate in government. Consequently, any situation which seek to exclude them from participating either deliberately or unintentionally must be a source of concern.
Beetham (1999) puts forth that exclusion of electorates from an electoral process can happen when qualified voters are physically prevented from voting through intimidation or right at the beginning by denying access or making access extremely difficult to register as a voter.
To ensure that elections are inclusive, free, fair, credible and acceptable, Ghana after having moved on from a checked political history; resulting from series of military coup d’états against elected heads of state; to five successive elections since the reintroduction of constitutional governance in 1992; introduced a number of electoral reforms to streamline her electoral process and make it more inclusive and credible. (Gyimah-Boadi 2004; Oquaye 2013).
In his work titled The State of Electoral Reforms in Ghana, Gyampo (2017) identified the following electoral reform since the adoption of the 1992 constitution: the passing of the Parliamentary Act 452 to establish an Electoral Commission (EC) in 1993; through which various other reforms were initiated, such as the registration eligibility processes, the formation of the Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC) in 1994, charged with serving as a forum for addressing thorny political issues and disagreements regarding the electoral process among parties; the reformation of the 1992 voters register to rid it of inaccurate information in 1998; the holding of presidential and parliamentary election simultaneously to avoid undue advantage to candidates leading in the presidential polls in 1999; acceptance of both voter’s identity card and thumb print as means of identification in 2000; and the creation of District Registration Review Committees (DRRCs) in all constituencies to aid in resolving conflicts regarding voters registration, etc, etc. Subsequent reforms led to the replacement of the translucent and opaque ballot boxes with transparent ones and the introduction of biometric registration and verification in 2012 to prevent voter fraud. While these reforms have contributed in building confidence in the nation’s electoral process, it is no less true that in comparison to matured democracies in the west, Ghana’s electoral system still has room for improvement.
The Electoral Commission, Ghana – A Brief Profile
Composition Functions and Structure
The Electoral Commission (EC) is an institution created by the 1992 constitution of the Ghana. It is composed of a chairman, or chairperson, two deputies who work full -time, and four other members, who work part- time, and all of whom are appointed by the President acting in consultation with the Council of State under Articles 43 and 70 of the 1992 constitution. Their tenure is subject to their age of retirement.
The main functions of the EC under Article 45 of the Constitution, and as provided by the Electoral Commission Act, Act 451 (1993) include but not limited to:
the compilation and revision of the voters’ register at legally specified periods;
the demarcation of the electoral boundaries for constituencies, electoral areas and polling stations for both general and district assembly elections;
the conduct and supervision of all public elections and referenda in Ghana;
to provide voter identity cards;
to educate the general public on the electoral process and its purpose;
to provide proper storage for election materials; and
to perform such other functions as may be prescribed by law.
As a constitutional entity, the EC by Article 51, also has the power to formulate its own constitutional and legislative Instruments (C.Is and L.Is) that are necessary for the performance of its functions and duties as mandated by the constitution.
The Electoral Commission (EC) functions on a three-tier administrative and operational structures which consist of the Head Office, Regional Offices and District Offices. Since 1993, the EC has maintained its administrative presence in all the ten regions in the country. The EC also has offices in every Metropolitan, Municipal and District (MMDA) in Ghana. It currently has two hundred and sixteen (216) district offices. With the recent creation of new districts by the ministry of local government and rural development, the total number of the district offices will increase to 258. The District Offices are headed by District Electoral Officers (DEOs) who manages all electoral and administrative activities at the district level under the supervision of the Regional Directorates.
As an Electoral Management Body (EMB) the Electoral Commission has successfully conducted presidential and parliamentary since 1992
Voter Registration In Ghana
The voters’ register as it exists today has evolved over decades. Voters’ lists have been used in Ghana since 1925 (where the eligibility criterion was land ownership). The voters’ register has been computerised since 1988, although no voter ID cards were issued at that time. The first voter ID cards were issued in 1995. (Evrensel, 2010). It was a thumb printed ID card. Photo ID cards were first issued in 2000. It was black and white. It evolved into a colour photo which is still accepted as well as with biometric details.
Legal Framework, Rules and Regulations
The legal framework regarding voter registration in Ghana is integrated with legislation on the electoral framework in general. (Evrensel, 2010). Article 42 of the 1992 Constitution provides that every Citizen of Ghana of eighteen years of age, or above, and of sound mind, has the right to vote, and is entitled to be registered as a voter, for the purposes of public elections and referenda.
Article 51 of the 1992 Constitution empowers the EC to make further regulations for the effective performance of its functions. By this the EC has over the years formulated and caused to be passed into law series of subordinate laws and regulations to guide and regulate the electoral activities, and for the purposes of this work, the registration of voters, specifically the Public Elections (Registration of Voters) Regulations.
By 2012, the existing Constitutional Instrument (C.I) 12, the Public Elections (Registration of Voters) Regulations, (1995), had become inadequate for the conduct and supervision of the biometric system of voter registration. A new Constitutional Instrument (C.I) was therefore needed to accommodate the process and to give it the required legal backing. This lead to the passing of the Public Elections (Registration of Voters) Regulations, (2012) C.I. 72. Again, in 2016, a new C.I, the Public Elections (Registration of Voters) Regulations, (2016) C.I.91 was passed by parliament to address some anomalies and inconsistencies in the C.I.72 of 2012, and to seek improvements and harmonisation for the registration of voters’ activity, and for the implementation of the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR).
Public Elections (Registration of Voters) Regulations, (2016) C.I.91
Qualification For Registration As A Voter – S (1)
To qualify to be registered as a voter under CI 91, an applicant must be
a citizen of Ghana;
must be eighteen years of age or above;
must be of a sound mind
must be a resident or an ordinarily resident in an electoral area; and
must not be prohibited by any law in force from registration as a voter.
The law also provides for the qualification of a person confined in a penal institution located in an electoral to be registered as a voter.
Apart from the above, the law requires for an applicant to possess the necessary evidence of identification as specified to facilitate the registration process.
Designation as a Registration Centre – S (2)
Under the CI 91 (2016), The Commission
Shall designate a registration centre for the purposes of registering voters; and
May designate any place it considers appropriate as a registration centre.
In designating a place as a registration centre, the Commission shall take into consideration
the suitability of the place for use as a polling station on election day; and
the accessibility of the place to prospective applicants for registration.
Period of Registration- S (9)
The Commission shall register voters on a continuous basis. The Commission shall in
consultation with registered political parties determine the modalities for the continuous
registration of voters.
The Commission may by notice in the Gazette:
specify a period during which the registration of voters shall take place; or
review the original period set aside for registration.
The Commission shall include in the register of voters, the name of a person who qualifies for registration as a voter and is registered but shall not include in the register of voters the name of a person who qualifies to register as a voter for an election but who registers less than sixty days to that election.
It is evident that the CI 91 was introduced to further open access to greater participation in the registration process, in marked departure from hitherto Periodic Voter Registration (PVR).
The EC has designated its various District Offices as the only registration centres for the Continuous Voter Registration exercises. And again, the EC designated certain Fridays of the month for this exercise. This means that applicants must come to the Districts Offices regardless of the distances over which they must travel to do so, on that designated Friday only. Where for any reason, the applicant is unable to the registered, they are compelled to repeat the cycle every week.
Technology is increasingly playing a central part in the voter registration process in view of EMB’s use of technological solutions. Thus since, 2012, the EC has relied on the use of technology to capture the biometric data of applicants during the registration process. The aim is to reduce or remove issues of multiple registration, impersonation during voting and multiple voting, thereby to reduce violence, tensions and conflicts between political parties in Ghana.
In a periodic voter registration, the registration centres are opened in every electoral area across the municipality, where the applicants are within walking distance to get registered as voters. The entire registration process, including registration equipment, are sent to the field for data capture. Each registration centre takes charge of an average of four (4) polling stations. At the close of the working day, the data so captured on the Biometric Voter Registration Device (BVD) is then saved on removable electronic devices, usually pen- drives, and are returned to the District Office for onward transmission to Accra. By this method, a certain number of applicants’ information captured on that particular day are transmitted at once. The presence of applicants is therefore not required at the District Office.
Unlike the continuous voter registration. This process takes place at the District Office only. The process is done per each individual applicant and the data must be captured and transmitted directly to the Electoral Commission’s (EC) Head Office in the Accra. The entire process in the office is slow, because until the complete transmission of an applicant’s data, no applicant can be registered. The technology network challenges are such that this process is anything but smooth. Transmission time becomes terribly slow; and particularly frustrating where several district offices across the country are transmitting captured voter data at the same time. Working with a data transmission architecture which only allows voter information to be sent individually and not in bulk as used to be the case under the PVR regime, one can only imagine the difficulty faced by registration officials. Moreover, since voter information is captured and transmitted directly to the EC Head Office, it is impossible to save collected voter data during power outages. When this happens, officials are compelled to wait till power is restored. The whole process is further worsened by the absence of standby generators to power data transmission servers in the event of power outage.
Coupled with the above, political party agents approved by the EC to observe the registration process often must be seated in the District Electoral Office, which are usually too tiny to comfortably accommodate them all, unlike in the case of PVR, where registration goes on in spacious open spaces in the field at accessible and suitable places. Implementing CVR is further challenged in that, where there is shortage of accessories, (laptop, registration and printing forms, printer cartridges and laminates), the long hours, sometimes days of waiting for supplies to arrive, pushes party agents to contribute money out of their pocket to buy these supplies.
Brief Profile of Wassa Amenfi East Municipal
The Wassa Amenfi East Municipal is currently made up of 28 Electoral Areas (E/As) with one constituency. It has a total voter population of 76,656 with 154 polling stations. The recently elevated district was carved out of the Amenfi district in 2004. The Municipality lies on the main Takoradi Tarkwa Obuasi Kumasi road, sharing boundaries with Prestea Huni Valley, and Wassa Amenfi West districts all in the Western Region. The District is also bordered by Upper Denkyira East and West Districts in the Central Region of Ghana. In addition to it being dispersed in land area and rural in its location, the Municipality lacks the road network and related infrastructure to facilitate access to the district capital where continuous voter registration mandated under the existing law, is carried out. In extreme cases, a full-day’s travel time is required to reach the capital from some parts of the district. It takes four days travel to reach the length and breadth of the Municipality. It is not uncommon to find applicants compelled to sleep over in the district offices to wait in line for the service.
This reality, as is common in most rural districts and municipalities, create a number of constrictions to Ghana’s electoral system and her nascent democracy; and raises a number of questions: Why did the C. I. 91 lose sight of limitations in the EC’s technological systems? Why did the C.I. 91 gloss over the possibility of geographical challenges in getting registered as a voter? Can the EC as the Electoral Management Body (EMB) claim to be effectively implementing the continuous voter registration process when its infrastructure used in registering electorates allow only periodic or intermittent use? Are the actions of the EC preventing the openness and inclusiveness required to build confidence and credibility in the voters register? How do the conditions in the Wassa Amenfi East Municipal limit continuous voter registration (CVR)? How can these challenges to continuous voter registration in the District be addressed? Has the EC complied with the suitability and accessibility provisions in the law?
1.2 Research Problem
The limitations as noted above in the technological system, the particularly poor state of road and the lack of transportation infrastructure and peculiar geographical layout of the district have resulted in a situation where applicants are compelled to travel a whole day to get to the EC’s Office in the Municipality, just to take part in continuous registration. Often, electorate may get to the office at a time when it is not possible for them to be registered because access has not been open from the Commission’s Head Office in Accra, thus undermining a critical ingredient in credible election such ease of registration and proximity to registration and polling center (International Federation of Journalists IFJ 2004). Further, the dispersed land area of the Wassa Amenfi East Municipal, coupled with the poor road network and related transportation infrastructure makes access to the district capital rather difficult for inhabitants. So much so that it has become a common occurrence to have people travel a whole day to the district electoral office only to find that access to registration has not been activated by the Head Office in Accra, or that the network is down or sluggish for the registration process to proceed. The situation holds great potential to disenfranchise some electorates in the municipality due to the unsuitability and inaccessibility of the designated registration centre as well as other technological and logistical factors. The logistics and technological insufficiencies, the unsuitability and inaccessibility of the designated registration centre described above further worsens the situation and pose a serious challenge to the implementation of the CVR prescribed in the C.I.91 in the Municipality.
The conduct of free, fair and credible election is one of the prerequisites of democratic governance (Pippa 2012). However, an electoral roll of acceptable completeness and accuracy lies at the heart of the democratic process, (Olson 2005; Dennis 2003); where the ability to vote depends on whether a voter’s name is on the roll. An accurate voters register is also fundamental to the discharge by party polling agents of their duties on polling day (Larry, Joseph and Ezekwe 2015). Further, Rajasingham (2005), posits that in any electoral system, not giving practical effect to the right of those eligible to vote to be able to do so could raise serious problems. While the case of Wassa Amenfi East Municipal may not be deliberate, it formally points to instances which could frustrate the exercise of that right, for example, by obstructing access to the necessary documentation, or otherwise interfering with or discouraging registration. In such situations, Edsall & Gladwell (2003), and Dupuy, (2009), proposes an investigation into logistic impediments and related challenges in order to forestall further difficulties in compiling voter records. By seeking to examine the challenges to CVR as provided for in the C1 91 in the Wassa Amenfi East Municipal, this study is a response to Edsall & Gladwell (2003), and Dupuy, (2009)’s proposition by seeking to examine challenges to the smooth implementation of continuous voter registration in Wassa Amenfi East Municipal in order to propose possible modification to the CI 91.
1.3 Research Objectives
The study will seek to achieve the following objectives:
Determine the geographic factors impeding the smooth implementation of CI 91 in the Wassa Amenfi East Municipal?
Identify logistical challenges to smooth implementation of continuous registration in the Municipality.
Find how Continuous Voter Registration (VCR) can be enhanced under these existing conditions in the Municipality
To find out if these logistical challenges may result in disenfranchisement of voters in the Municipality?
1.4 Research Questions
What are the technological issues affecting the smooth implementation of CI 91 in the Wassa Amenfi East Municipal?
What are the logistical challenges impeding the smooth implementation of continuous voter registration in the Municipality?
How can continuous registration be enhanced under existing conditions in Wassa Amenfi East Municipal?
How do these logistical challenges affect voter disenfranchisement?
1.5 Scope and Delimitation of the study
The study sought to analyze the challenges facing continuous voter registration as written in the C.I.91 in the Wassa Amenfi East Municipal, Western Region of Ghana. The study was therefore limited to the said district alone. No other district was included in this study. The study focused exclusively on the provisions in the C.I.91. Previous laws relating to continuous voter registration was considered outside of the subject under this study; except when they are mentioned in developing a conceptual framework for the present study. Finally, the study was limited to examining logistical problems facing year round registration, and technological considerations which could facilitate applicability of C.I.91.
1.6 Significance of the Study
Voter registration determines the eligibility of individuals to vote. It is more expensive, time-consuming and one of the complex aspects of the electoral process. It requires an allocation of a considerable portion of the budget, staff time and resources of an Election Management Body (EMB). If conducted well, voter registration confers legitimacy on the entire election process. Where the process is not properly managed and flawed, an entire electoral process may be perceived as illegitimate which can create confusion, disagreements and violence. For instance, in Ghana, the National Patriotic Party, (NPP) in 2016 had series of disagreements over the credibility and legitimacy of the voters’ register with the Electoral Commission. These disagreements descended into battles being fought violently in the streets, and at the Courts.
It is the right of all adult citizens to participate in the affairs of their government is one of the cornerstones of democracy. Perhaps the most fundamental form of participation is voting in free, fair and regular elections. For citizens to exercise their democratic right to vote, the Electoral Commission must maintain a comprehensive and an inclusive voters’ register, to ensure that each citizen is registered to vote once and only once in an election. A credible voters’ register performs the important function confirming the legitimacy on the voting process. In other jurisdictions, elections may proceed without a voters’ register, but with the reliance on a civil list. But this is not the case in Ghana.
Election is a critical element in a democracy. Offering citizens, the chance to exercise their franchise is paramount. Thus, laws made to facilitate voting must be constantly fine-tuned to give people the easiest chance to vote. To this end, examining the challenges to the full implementation of CVR as enshrined in the C.I.91 will expose possible flaws in the conception of the law, propose review in order to facilitate better management of election.
Whether or not, the outcome of these elections will generate general acceptance depends very much on how the activities in the election cycle were managed by the Elections Management Bodies (EMBs). Thus open, free and fair election management is fundamental to the process.
The study would further would help understand the issues that hamper the continuous voter registration particularly in the Wassa Amenfi East Municipal; and provide some recommendations as to how the process and the law may be looked at again, to facilitate the process and helped both the Municipality and regions with similar challenges.
1.7 Chapter Organisation
This research is organized into five (5) chapters.
Chapter One provides a background to the study. The chapter also presents the problem statement, outlines the study objectives and proposes the questions which the research sought to answer. It further discusses the relevance of the study and details how the study is organized.
Chapter Two reviews relevant literature of the subject matter of the study. Prior related research publications, articles in peer reviewed journals and other relevant documents are reviewed and discussed in this section.
The Third chapter relates the methodology used in conducting the research. Subjects such as the study design, the population for the study, sample techniques employed and sample size are explained in this chapter. Chapter three also discusses how data was collected, collated and analyzed.
Chapter Four is a presentation of the results obtained from analyzed data.
Finally, Chapter Five summarizes these findings of the research, conclusions reached and proffer recommendations based on the findings observed to minimize the impediments in the implementation of the C.I. 91.
After decades of a checked political history, Ghana made another turn to multiparty democracy from 1991. This turn towards elections as the surest way of choosing governments, according to some historians was born by the then “third wave of democratization” that swept across third world nations mainly on the African continent.
According to Huntington (1991) the said “third wave” was born out of a number of factors mainly both internal and external in their description. Internally, Huntington (1991) cites agitation of pro-democratic forces like the Movement for Freedom and Justice (MFJ), which many credits for being among the pacesetters of forces which influenced the then Provisional National Defense Council (PNDC) led by Flt. Lt Jerry John Rawlings into accepting some form of participation in governance by the masses. Externally, Handley (2008) adds that this internal factor was in fact a response to pressure from international organisations and foreign donor bodies as who made democratization a pre-condition for financial aid and foreign assistance. Whatever the causes and reasons were, since the nation finally adopted multi-party democracy in 1992, after numerous previous false starts and after series of electoral reforms have been introduced, all in the attempt to improve the country’s electoral processes and established a democratic state. This section reviews the literature on the subject of the study.
Definition and Relevance of Elections
Elections are key aspects of every thriving democracy. It is important that citizens be given the opportunity and means to take part in electing others, and be free to vie for positions within the governance system in order to legitimize a regime in a country they belong to.
As per Lindberg (2004), legitimacy, competition and participation constitute the three attributes by which elections are measured. Lindberg (2004), notes that legitimacy, arguably the most important credential of an election is promoted by level or degree of participation. He further asserts that well conducted elections are the basic means by which political competitions are supervised and monitored.
In the opinion of Uwagboe (2009), elections are the processes by which citizens designate those who must lead them by exercising their choice and power at polls organized for that purpose. On his part, Ninsin (2006) saw elections as a legally prescribed procedure, which must be followed in the course of deciding on individuals, groups or parties which must take decision on behalf and in the interest of those who elect them. Ninsin suggests that elections are organized or they come about as a demonstration of a people’s belief in democracy as a system of government requiring mass involvement in leadership.
These scholarly explanations are supported by Aderibigbe (2006), who in his definition, introduce the term “selection of candidates” who are entrusted with the mandate to represent the citizens of a country or region in their legislative assemblies as well as other posts in government. Aderibigbe’s definition seem rather narrow as it limits the process of election to only public office, even though elections can serve as means of selecting leaders in other non-public offices.
Beyond the forgoing definitions, the importance of election in ensuring the survival of democracy is highlighted in the works of Scholars such as Sandbrook (2000), Diamond, Linz and Lipset (1989) and Sorensen (1993) who place elections as the very center piece of democratic governance. To these authors, democracy is generally judged by the ease with which the system allows adult citizens, considered as having the right to vote are able to participate in the process of choosing officials. They contend that what determines the soundness of a liberal democracy is this ease of political participation, the freedom of parities and idea bearers to compete and the presence of civil rights including freedom of speech, freedom to associate with others, and the presence of a vibrant and free press which serves as a watchdog of the integrity of the electoral process.
It can therefore be argued that what goes into an election is more than just a set of laws and constitutional instruments. In fact, Rose (1978) argues that the more a government’s authority is derived from being elected the easier it will be for that government to occasion compliance to laws by citizens.
More than these submissions connote, electoral alternation has a positive impact on how much confidence and support citizens place in elected leaders as well as in the democratic process as a whole (Bratton, 2004).
To buttress this assertion, Lindberg (2006) observed that even when elections are perceived as not entirely fair, the holding of repetitive polls provides some guarantee for individual civil liberties because periodic elections in themselves has some capacity to keep citizenry democratically conscious.
Even though the determination of a democratic government is still a subject of an on-going debate, Lindberg (2006) concludes that in whatever light democracy is seen, one characteristic which is common to all kinds or shades of contemporary democracy is an election acceptable by all. Holding credible election to allow all who qualify to vote to do so must be seen as important mean of ensuring that the essence of a rule of citizens by citizens is promoted.
While some scholars contest that elections taken in isolation may not be enough to guarantee democracy, Bratton ; Van de Walle (1997) further highlights the significance of election by conceding that no other process, procedure, or methods is better at institutionalizing the culture of democracy in a country than the holding of election which are participatory, legitimate and which does not disenfranchise or exclude anyone unless by law so established.
Agreeing with Bratton ; Van de Walle (1997)’s proposition, Dumor (1998) opines that in spite of the fact that there is more to the concept and practice of democracy than simply holding elections, it is also a truism that election remain an indisputable ingredient in consolidating a culture and practice of democracy in most countries. To argue therefore that elections are probably the most critical aspect of free and people centered government is not out of place.
In the words of Lindberg (2006), “the process of holding an uninterrupted series of de jure participatory, competitive and legitimate elections not only enhances the democratic quality of a regime but also has positive effects on the spread and deepening of civil liberties in the society” (Lindberg, 2006; p.18).
Supporting Lindberg’s view, Levitsky and Way (2002) put forth that although the holding of election may not mean that a government is democratic, nevertheless it is difficult to see how democracy can exist without elections.
The Marxist Opposition to Election and Africa’s Peculiarity
However, some proponents, mainly of the Marxists orientation fault election as an essential component of democracy. To these critics, elections are only tools used by the upper class to perpetrate their rule over the lower class in society (Adejumobi, 1998).
Although Marxists seem to be minimizing the relevance of elections, they still seem to understand that election or some form of it; is an acceptable way to initiate and sustain popular participation in the peoples struggle and participation in governance (Adejumobi, 1998).
However, many critics of the centrality of election to democracy and peaceful change of government suggest that particularly in less developed nations, electoral playing fields are so influenced and organized by parties in power so as to put opposition parties at a disadvantage even before elections are held. This deliberate weakening of opposition parties makes elections a source of civic concern rather than an instrument for inclusive governance (Rakner and Van de Walle 2009).
This challenge to democracy may be true especially in Africa. Moreover, the seemingly disproportionate emphasis on election as silver bullet to all problems of democratization process was also either muted or highlighted by other writers such as Santiso (2001), and Fawole (2005) over the last decade.
For instance, both Santiso (2001), and Fawole (2005) indicate that because of the growing and rampant instances of vote buying, rigging, and other means by which otherwise legitimate voters are disenfranchised; either deliberately or inadvertently in Africa especially; makes the argument that elections alone is the answer to promoting democracy not completely true. These writers note that because it is much easier to exclude people from taking part in elections in Africa than in advanced democracies, election in some of these African countries can easily become a simple formality which adds no meaningful contribution to the democratization process.
In seeking to examine the challenges to implementing continuous voter registration, a measure which aims to extend access to qualified voter; this study aims to unearth some of the problems which serve to exclude otherwise legitimate voters from the electoral process.
Universal Instruments and the relevance of Elections
In spite of the argument and the counter arguments on the importance of elections to a democracy, countries across the world turn to see elections as a major means of enhancing good governance. In the year 2016 alone, more than 130 elections were held at parliamentary, presidential or local levels (International IDEA 2017), demonstrating the worldwide acceptance that elections are critical and relevant. Elections are organized in conformity to electoral system laws. Even though there are slight disparities in the way elections are conducted, most elections are expected to meet the following criteria to be considered credible and participatory.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, in its Article 21 proposes some basic criteria for elections. Subsequently developed in Article 25, regarded as the Covenant on Civil and Political Right; the provision states that ‘no citizen shall be unreasonably prevented or restricted from: 1) taking part in how the affairs of his/her country is conducted; either directly or through freely elected representative, 2) Every citizen has the right to vote for someone or put him/herself up to be elected at well-organised and openly-held, periodic elections; which shall be by universal suffrage and secret ballot; so as to reflect the will of electors’.
Specifically, the voting and election rights in the declaration stipulate:
That every citizen who is an adult has the right to exercise his franchise by voting in an election without discrimination
That every citizen, who qualifies to vote per the laws of the country, has the right to take part in the registration of voters. This registration process must be non-discriminatory, effective and impartial.
No citizen who is eligible to vote or be voted for shall be denied the right to do so; except where he/she fails to meet clearly stipulated legal requirements for qualification or criteria which can be objectively verified; provided those criteria conform to obligations of the state as prescribed under international law.
All persons denied the right to vote or the right to be registered as a voter; are entitled to seek redress from a court of competent jurisdiction to have errors, denial or disqualifications properly and promptly reviewed.
Every adult individual, qualified to vote must be given equal access to a polling station to enable him or her exercise his/her right to vote.
Every voter must be given equal weight to his/her and must be given equivalent weight to the vote cast by other voters
People’s right to vote must be exercised in secret and absolute and should not be restricted in any way. (Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948, Article 21)
As may be observed, where problems are encountered during the registration process, individuals’ right can be violated, and the credibility of the election could be perceived in a bad light.
In his article, titled what makes a good election, McKay (2011) opines that elections held democratically remain the best mean for electing national and regional authorities as well as the best method for removing such authorities from office. McKay (2011) highlights the disagreement among experts as to what makes for a good electoral system capable of ensuring credible elections but notes that at the minimum, a good system must have attributes such as:
Fairness: fairness is necessary in building trust in the system by all parties contesting elections because it ensures that every voter votes only once, and the votes are given equal value or weight. Where electors see the system as being unfair then their confidence in the process can be negatively affected and the legitimacy of elected officials becomes questionable as far as the electorates are concerned. A system perceived as unfair has an even serious implication in that it discourages electorate from participating in future elections. According to McKay (2011), when this happens citizens can resort to violent means to remove elected officials instead of waiting to remove them through the ballot.
Transparency: Mackay maintains that a credible electoral system must be an open and transparent system to minimize mistrust to the very lowest. He premised the need for transparency on the assumption that, any system seeking to build trust and confidence in the populace must simply be as open and free of actions which could foster suspicion. To Mackay (2011), the only aspect which must not be made open is the voting itself which for reason of being victimized for holding a political persuasion must be left secret.
Accountability: beyond electing leaders, a good electoral system must hold elected persons accountable to those who voted to elect him/her by proposing periodic election so that electorates can evaluate and decide whether to re-elect or elect other persons to replace them.
Stability An electoral system must produce governments which are able to manage state affairs in a stable manner. If an electoral system produces a set of governing officials; they must be allowed to guide a country’s affairs without being unnecessarily harassed out of office. Otherwise that electoral system would have failed the test of stability and peaceful change in government.
Inclusiveness?Inclusiveness is a central issue in an electoral system. According to Mackay (2011), aside from persons whose right to vote has been curtailed because of their location (in prison) or because of their condition (not of sound mind); or age (below the legal voting age); all other persons must be allowed to vote without restriction.
From Mackay’s explanation of inclusiveness, it can be deduced that issues such as poor road infrastructure, poor local internet connectivity, lack of other IT tools, and poor office space can have adverse impact on smooth voter registration and discourage otherwise qualified voters from registering. Part of the objectives of this study is to assess to what extent this happens in the Wassa Amenfi Municipality of Ghana.
Electoral Reforms in Ghana
Many reforms, some electoral in nature have been undertaken in Ghana since the advent of the 1992 constitution. Many such reforms were meant to improve democratic representation, enhance transparency of the election processes, improve participation, make election outcome more acceptable to contesting parties, and ultimately enhance the legitimacy of the nation’s democratic credentials.
It would be recalled that the 1992 parliamentary and presidential elections were boycotted by the main opposition party, the National Patriotic Party (NPP). This refusal to accept the poll’s outcome has been described by commentators as a dent on Ghana’s democratization progress because in the view of those pundits, elections, held regularly and periodically are important stepping stones in any nation’s drive towards deepening democracy. (Gyimah-Boadi 2004)
The boycotting parties in the 1992 election were of the opinion that the manner in which the elections were organized and conducted presented an unfair playing field, which was very much skewed against the opposition parties. The claims and accusation of the then incumbent National Democratic Congress (NDC) fed both the campaign and the book, themed and titled the “stolen Verdict”. According to Boahen (1995); Gyimah-Boadi (2004) and Oquaye (2013), the Stolen Verdict was a summation of itinerary of instances of what the opposition felt were proofs of electoral fraud, voter intimidation and outright disenfranchisement of their supporters by the Interim National Electoral Commission (INEC) and some agents of the incumbent government.
While the incumbent government, the NDC saw the 1992 election and the then existing electoral system as acceptable and consequently suggested no major changes to its functioning, defending this stance by alluding to the endorsement of the election by international observers; the opposition NPP saw everything wrong and therefore proposed some recommendations to fix the flaws in the system, including: the need for a separate independent transitional organ to oversee the elections; the need for a new voters’ register, and the necessity for a voter identification card; and the urgency for replacing the INEC with a body of representatives of all the political parties contesting in each election (Ayee 1998).
The disagreement between parties on the efficiency of the electoral system and outcome of the election itself however, yielded some major institutional changes. Among them are:
the formation of the Electoral Commission (EC), by an Act of Parliament; Act 451 in 1993.
Once established, the EC then formed an Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC) the following year. According to Badu and Larvie (1996), the IPAC was to serve as a forum for relevant stakeholders in the electioneering process to address issues on which parties disagree.
Other reforms engineered by the EC include:
The revision of the 1992 voters’ register, since many believe contained erroneous voter information (Ayee 1998).
Change in the voting schedules to enable the holding of both parliamentary and presidential polls on the same day as some parties believe holding the parliamentary after the presidential gave undue advantage to the candidate leading in the presidential poll.
The use of thumbprint and identity cards as means of identifying registered voters on the voters’ list
Training of Registration Officials (ROs) on how to ensure voters register integrity
The forming of District Registration Review Committees (DRRCs) in all constituencies to act as conflict resolution bodies within the constituencies
The introduction of transparent ballot boxes to replace the translucent/ opaque ones used in the previous year
Cardboard Screens were used as voting booths instead of completely hidden voting enclosures; to further promote transparency as Debrah (2011) opine.
The counting of votes soon after close of polls instead of leaving till later (EC 1996),
The introduction of biometric registration and verification of voters to guard against multiple registration and voting, impersonation, abuse of the voting process and other voter fraud.
The need for political parties to declare their assets and expenditures within ninety days upon registration completion and not less 21 days before the holding of elections. As per Debrah (2011) this reform was aimed at helping prevent electoral corruption, and
The institution of the Presidential Transition Act, 2012 to guide and to regulate smooth power transfer from one government to the other
Many of the above reform as may be observed were aimed at broadening acceptance, improving confidence and ensuring that our democracy is strengthened. However, in spite of the number of reforms made to the electoral process, the outcome of the election held in 2012 still became a subject of contestation and subsequently challenged at the nation’s Supreme Court by the then party in opposition; the NPP. The Supreme Court however dismissed the petition of the NPP and validated the election result as announced by the EC.
Apart from what many considered regarding the opposition’s 2012 petition as a mere waste of time and state recourses, the petition highlighted the need for further reforms, which were duly considered by the EC. These consisted of:
The early compilation of the voter registers and making them available to parties as early as feasible;
Where necessary, a supplementary voters’ register to take care of later and emerging demands
Engaging more qualified Presiding Officers
Simplification of the Declaration of Results Sheets as the previous ones were deemed too complex and overly elaborate
Improvement in the carbon copying system
The streamlining of Biometric Device System to reduce frequent breakdowns
Before instituting these reforms, the EC sought and held consultation with thirty-eight (38) stakeholders, inviting proposition from bodies such as political parties, professional organizations, and identifiable civil society groups. The broad-based consultation yielded the submission of more than twenty (20) proposals for further electoral reforms from various organisations with stakes in the electoral process by the end of 2013. An Electoral Reform Committee (ERC) was formed in the first month of 2015; made of ten (10) members; with the mandate to evaluate each reform proposal and propose recommendation to the EC. Of the forty-one (41) proposals made to the EC by the ERC, seventeen (17) were accepted with minor modifications. First among the accepted proposal was the need for well-trained election officials to staff the polls and a continuous voter registration during the inter-election period.
Specifically, the on-going voter registration was meant to address exclusions from the electoral process due to the inability to register during the periodic voter registration. However, several factors militate against its smooth implementation particularly in the Wassa Amenfi East Municipality. This study seeks to examine some of these challenges with the view to proposing remedial measures.
The CI 91
As part of this improvement effort, the CI 91 was introduced in 2016 to further open access to involvement. In marked departure from hitherto Periodic Voter Registration (PVR), a key provision in the CI 91 is the introduction of Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) which stipulates the conduct of registration at the district office only. This means that applicants must come to the Districts Offices, no matter the distance over which they must travel to do so.
Further, during CVR, voters’ data must be captured and transmitted directly to the Electoral Commission’s (EC) Head Office in the capital Accra. However, internet speed and bandwidth challenges are such that this process is anything but smooth. Transmission time becomes terribly slow; and particularly frustrating where several district offices across the country are transmitting captured voter data at the same time on the same network. Working with a data transmission architecture which only allows voter information to be sent individually and not in bulk as used to be the case under the PVR regime, one can only imagine the difficulty faced by electoral officials. Moreover, since voter information is captured and transmitted directly to the EC Head Office, it is impossible to save collected voter data during power outages. When this happens, officials are compelled to wait till power is restored. The whole process is further worsened by the absence of standby generators to power data transmission servers in the event of power outage.
Coupled with the above, party agents observing the registration often have to seat in the District Electoral Office, which are usually too tiny to comfortably accommodate them, unlike in the case of PVR, where registration goes on in spacious open spaces at the Registration Centres. Implementing CVR is further challenged in that, where there is shortage of accessories, (laptop, printer cartridges and laminates), the long hours, sometimes days of waiting for supplies to arrive, pushes party agents to contribute money out of their pocket to buy these supplies.
Table 2.1 The table below tabulates major differences between the registration methods of CVR and PVR
Source: EC Wassa Amenfi East Municipality
As noted earlier, the Wassa Amenfi East Municipal lies on the main Takoradi Tarkwa Obuasi Kumasi road, sharing boundaries with Prestea Huni Valley, and Wassa Amenfi West districts all in the Western Region. The District is made up of 28 electoral areas and one constituency, bordered to the south by Prestea Huni Valley, to the west and north by Amenfi Central and Amenfi West, to the east by Upper Denkyira East and West Districts in the Central Region of Ghana. In addition to being dispersed in land area and rural in its location, Wassa Amenfi Municipal lacks the road network and related infrastructure to facilitate access to the district capital where continuous registration is carried out. In extreme cases four full-day’s travel time is required to reach the capital from some parts of the district. It is not uncommon to find applicants compelled to sleep over in the district offices to wait in line for the service.
These realities in Wassa Amenfi East Municipal, and other districts with similar geographical and logistics issues, pose several constrictions to the implementation of the CI 94, and by extension Ghana’s nascent democracy. Furthermore, the conditions described above raise several questions: Did the framers of the C I 91 lose sight of limitations in the EC’s ICT system? Can the EC claim to be implementing continuous registration when its IT System allows only periodic or intermittent use? How do the conditions in the Wassa Amenfi East Municipal limit continuous registration? How can challenges to continuous registration in the District be addressed?
As per Blaise (2010), sometimes elections held in developed and matured democracies have persistently attracted less than 50% of qualified electorate. These findings raise the question as to whether there can be a situation where citizens are equally represented or whether elected government can be said to be legitimate and truly reflect the will of electorate. According to Wolfinger and Rosenstone (1980), the lesser the percentage of total voters participating in an election, the more representation is unequal; and therefore, the less representative the elected officials in those situations are; and by extension the less public policy and laws made by those representatives reflect the general will of the people.
Piven and Cloward (1988) indicates that low voter participation or turn out is a basic function of what they term the ‘participation cost of voting’ which they define ‘as what it takes the ordinary voter to be involved in the electioneering process; including waiting time, technological glitches, access to voting and registration point, distance from registration and polling centers and user friendliness of the vote casting method itself’. Among these factors, Piven and Cloward (1988) submit that voter registration cost stands out as the most significant in dissuading voter participation in elections.
Perhaps this is what informs decisions in democratically more matured nations; such like Israel, Australia, Italy, Canada, Sweden, Germany, Switzerland and Finland, have in place systems which ensure that voter registration is automatic. In these nations, there is a civil registration lists, where the details of a citizen are captured at birth and added to an already existing database. Once the person attains the legal voting age, the person’s data is automatically generated and added to the voters’ register to enable them to vote. Thus, the idea of a specific exercise such as a periodic or continuous voters registration is no more an issue.
However, there are other advanced democracies countries whose system is much like what pertains in Ghana: for example, France and the USA. In these countries voter registration is self-initiated. This means any person who intends to take part in an up-coming election must present him or herself at a registration center in his community to be registered, and this must be repeated each time they move to a different region. It has been observed that in such countries (France, USA), many citizens are not registered because of what Piven and Cloward (1988) called a higher ‘participation cost of voting’ (Insee 2012; US Census Bureau 2012).
Although the point can be made that these people simple decided not to register because of their mistrust for the political process or they have over time developed a low interest in the election process for reasons other than the ‘participation cost of voting’, a more recent study done by Braconnier and Dormagen (2007); and Braconnier and et.al (2016), suggest that there is consistently an inversely proportional correlation between complexity and difficulty of voter registration procedure and voter turnout. Other studies have also shown that where the cost involved in registering is placed on the applicant or prospective voter during registration, a low voter participation is almost an obvious consequence (Wolfinger and Rosenstone 1980).
In an article titled Voter Registration Costs and Disenfranchisement: Experimental Evidence from France, Braconnier, Yves, Dormagen, Pons (2017) empirically shows that presence of high information cost and can serve to hamper voter registration. Furthermore, According to Harder and Krosnick (2014), where logistical, process-related barriers combine to make the benefit of election lesser than the cost of taking part in an electoral process, voter turnout can be significantly impeded. Consequently, an individual citizen’s voter turnout behavior is a joint function of his or her social location, his or her psychological dispositions, the procedures involved in voting, and events that occur at the time of each election.
Instead of limiting registration to specific periods, CI 91 aims to fundamentally ensure that voter registration is continuous so as to ease up the process and promote equal representation by enhancing voter participation in election. However, where the challenges to implementing its inherent policy prescriptions are not addressed, qualified voters can be disenfranchised thus affection democratic representation in Ghana. It is not therefore out of place to seek to dedicate some scientific effort at finding the challenges to its smooth implementation.
This chapter presents a discussion of the methodology used in the carrying out this research. In seeking to examine the challenges confronting the implementation of the CI 91, this section is dedicated to explaining how the study was conducted. The research discusses subjects such as the research approach, the methods used in gathering data, how the sample was selected, managed and how data was analysed.
3.1 Research Design
Research design refers to a general strategy or plan for conducting a research study. (Gay and Airasian 2003). The description of the design indicates the basic structure and purpose of the study. To answer the research questions posed in this study, a qualitative study was proposed as most suitable for small samples. Although many fault qualitative research for not being measurable or quantifiable, qualitative studies are good at offering a more complete and in-depth description of a research phenomenon without placing much limitation on the scope of responses from the subjects included in the study. (Collins & Hussey, 2003).
Qualitative research examines attitudes, behaviour and experiences through interviews or focus groups by attempting to get an in-depth opinion from participants. Although, fewer people take part in the research, the contact with these people tends to last a lot longer. (Dawson, 2002)
How effective a qualitative study is conducted depends largely on the research skills of the research. And although the outcome may not be seen as an objective assessment of the realities on the ground; mostly because research are perceived to be based on the researcher’s subjective or personal judgement of the situation (Bell, 2005); However, its adaptability to the quality of information available, its ability to exploit subtleties of what can be observed in the data provided, its capacity to effectively mirror human experiences whiles providing greater insightful details and its strong predictive quality (Gay and Airasian 2003), makes it suitable for a study of this nature. Further qualitative information has a strong ability to provide a rich contextual information which is useful in understanding the research problem (Miles ; Huberman 1994).
3.2 Research Approach
The study adopted an inductive approach. This approach describes an observation made by the researcher. This observation is used to come out with a generalized theory or explanation and a conclusion is made from the research findings. Inductive approach factors in the research context or the environment in which the research effort is deployed (Miles ; Huberman 1994); A usually more amenable to small sample sized researches, often qualitative in design (Denzin ; Lincoln, 2005). In finding the challenges faced in the implementation of the CI91 in the Wassa Amenfi East Municipality, the study cannot ignore the context. The researcher therefore considers this approach more appropriate.
3.3 Research Population
Gay and Airasian (2003) defines a research population is a description of the total number of elements which is of interest to the researcher; to which study results will be ultimately generalized. Hutton and Ashcroft (1998) note therefore that in conducting a study, it is critical to clearly define the population targeted by the study and allow reviewers to observe the extent to which the research conclusions reflect real life situations described by the findings. For this study the study population consist of all persons qualified to vote under the 1992 Constitution of Ghana and resident in the Wassa Amenfi East Municipality. In all about 76,656 persons are concerned (Electoral Commission, Ghana, 2016).
3.3 Sample and Sampling Method
Sampling describes the process by which a number of persons within the population to which the study’s findings may be generalized to. In selecting a sample, it is vital that the selection is carried out in such a way that it represent the population as much as possible (Gay and Airasian 2003). Sidhu (2003) sees sampling as a process of selecting a representative unit from a population. Furthermore, Cohen and Manion (1994) observe that in sampling, the researcher endeavours to collect information from a smaller group, a subset of the population, in such a way that the knowledge gained is representative of the total population under study.
In the current study, convenient sampling techniques was used. The study sought to examine challenges faced in implementing PVR in the Wassa Amenfi East Municipality. Purposive sampling describes a non-probability method of sampling where the researcher deliberately selects respondents based on their eligibility to vote and the purposive sampling was used to select five people who are well versed with experience in the electoral processes in the Fourth Republic, and whose inputs to the subject of the study are relevant (Ghauri, P.N. and Grønhaug, K, 2002). The challenges faced in smooth registration is best lived by those who qualify to register to vote and who have or attempted to register as voters. Consequently, respondents were selected on the basis of their involvement and experiences regarding voter registration in the district, which is the subject of the study (Freedman et al., 2007).
A total of 65 persons were selected as follows: 52 qualified voters, from 12 communities that are the farthest from the capital Wassa Akropong, and from communities that are the closest and heavily populated, made up of 27 males and 25 females, three (3) permanent employees of the EC, five (5) registration officials and five (5) party executive or agents of the four (4) active political parties in the Municipality. The target population was selected based on the respondents’ active participation and interest in the activities and operations of the EC in Ghana, and the fact that they are the most affected by the impediments in the implementation of the law in the Municipality.
3.4 Data Sources
To successfully complete the research, both primary and secondary data sources were consulted in this study. Focus group discussions and in-depth interviews are some of the techniques of gathering primary data. These were conducted to capture the challenges impeding the smooth implementation of the CVR in the Municipality. Secondary data was gathered from related studies, published document on elections and the relevance of voter registration processes to credible election, journals, articles, books, internet sources, radio programmes and newspaper articles that relate to the subject matter of the study.
3.5 Pilot Testing
A pretesting was conducted in the office during the last registration to solicit for views of both prospective applicants and party executives. To ensure that the questions were asked properly, a pilot unstructured interview was conducted by a interviewer who also has extensive knowledge and experience of the processes of voter registration, having served as a registration supervisor since 1996.The pilot test created the opportunity to avoid irrelevant questions and to design the appropriate questions and techniques to administer to respondents.
3.6 Data Collection Procedure
For the purposes of this research, focus group discussions and in-depth interviews were the means of data collection. Focus group discussion enables respondents to disagree or agree among themselves on an issue and helps the researcher to obtain understanding of a groups feeling and opinion as well as challenges existing in the community where the research is situated.
Fischer (2005) describes in-depth interviews as unstructured and personal interviews aimed at capturing respondent’s opinions on how they feel concerning a given research subject. The method provides important advantage in that it involves direct contact between the researcher and participants, thus minimizing low response rate (Fisher, 2005, Wilson, 2003). Focus groups on the other hand helps to gather respondents’ reaction regarding a subject matter or a product. it helps the researcher to capture immediate ideas for improving a system from end users and can be a useful tool in identifying the system requirement from users instantly (Gill ; Johnson, 2002). In the conduct of this study, a total of 10 focus group were held for the eighty-five (85) registered voters. And 10 in-depth interviews were conducted with party agents and EC employees.
Participants were counselled to obtain informed consent. The help of interpreters was obtained to assist respondents during the focus group discussion time frame of two weeks was allotted for the primary data collection process.
3.7 Data Collecting Instrument
In-depth interviews and focus sessions were instruments used in the collection of primary data. Secondary data was gathered by reviewing relevant published works on the subject of this study in order to provide a theoretical basis on which to conduct the present study.
3.8 Data analysis
Content analysis was used in the analysis of data from interviews and focused discussions. Moore ; McCabe (2005), describe content analysis as a form of analysis that draws heavily from the conditions and environment in which research is being conducted. The measure involves categorizing collected data along themes and sub-themes for comparison. One major strength of content analysis lies in its ability to reduce and simplify information while producing outcomes which may be measurable using other means of data analysis (Krippendorff ; Bock, 2008). Although the method is reputed to be prone to human error, content analysis allows data to be structured in a manner as to answer the research objectives (Gill ; Johnson, 2002).
3.9 Research Limitations
As in any research, this study had some limitations. The first limitation concerns the sample size. For an estimated voter population of 76,656, eighty- five seem a small sample size. This could pose an issue of generalizability. Another limitation relates to the time constrained within which the study must be completed. It is the view of the researcher that a longer timeframe would have allowed for widened the research scope. For instance, a quantitative survey type study would have appropriate to further confirm findings from interviews and focus sessions. Finally, the language barrier was relatively as challenge as many of the respondents do not speak English. As with translation, some important fact may have lost some semantic significance.
ANALYSIS OF RESULTS
The study sought to examine the challenges to the smooth implementation of continuous voter registration. Specifically, the study aimed to find: identify geographic factors impeding the smooth implementation of CI 91 in the Wassa Amenfi East Municipal examine the logistical challenges to smooth implementation of continuous registration in the Municipality, find how Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) can be enhanced under these existing conditions in the Municipality, and determine if the challenges can disenfranchise qualified voters. This chapter presents the results obtained from analyzing primary information gathered in respect of the study objectives.
Respondents Demographic Information
This section discusses the demographic characteristics of respondents included in the study. It relates the gender, age, educational background, marital status and employment profile of participants.
4.2.1 Gender of Respondents
Source: Field Data 2018
Results shown in table 4.2.1 indicate that 44.4% of respondents are males. While 55.6% are females. There were therefore, more female represented than males in the study. Although this was not a deliberate sampling policy of the researcher, the inclusion of more female could lend credence to the conclusions of the study as any difficulty resulting from policy decision is more likely to be felt by the most vulnerable in any society; often made up of women and children. The discussion of gender representation, however is not a focus of the present study.
4.2.2 Age of Respondents
Source: Field Data 2018
From the results obtained, 10.8% of respondents were aged between 18-20; 18.4% were between the ages of 21-30; and 15.4% fell within the age group of 31-40. Only 12.3% were between 41-50 years old. 7.7% of respondents fell between 71-80 years while 26.7% were between the ages of 51-60 years.
The results show, that all participants were above the minimum voting age, however, majority (70.7%) were above 30 years, meaning that they would have had some experience with both periodic voter registration and the continuous voter registration. Their views therefore could be a reflection of valid first-hand input into the conclusions of the study.
4.2.3 Educational level of Respondents
Source: Field Data 2018
The results further show, that a little over 10% of respondents had no formal education, 29.2% had a least basic education, 32.3% were educated up to technical/Vocation level, 7.7% ended their formal after the secondary school while 20% had tertiary level education.
The results as shown in table 4.2.3 indicates that close to 81% had at least basic education and therefore are well placed to understand the subject of to understand the subject of the research; and respond appropriately to the question posed by the researcher on the challenges posed to the smooth implementation to continuous voter registration.
4.2.4 Marital Status
Source: Field Data 2018
From the results it was observed that majority, 58.5% of respondents were married. 1.5% were separated, 3.1% were divorced. About 4.6% were widowed and 32.3% were single. Majority, over 60% of the respondents were married, separated or widowed. Those who are single at the time of the study constituted only a about 32.3%. Marital responsibilities are sometimes added strain on individual. If the introduction of the continuous voter registration adds any difficulties to getting registered, and therefore the possibility of being disenfranchised then married persons, constituting about 43% could find it more challenging, combining conjugal responsibilities with the drudgery of a cumbersome registration process. This is however, not to suggest the challenges could be any easier for those separated and divorced; especially where there are children to cater for. The choice between spending huge amounts on transportation and providing food for one’s dependents could be decisive in whether an individual is able to travel to the EC district office to register.
4.2.5 Respondents’ Occupation
Source: Field Data 2018
Further analysis according to respondents’ occupation show that about 21.2% are public/civil servants, 20% work for private firms, 9.2%% are artisans, made up mainly of carpenters and masons; 23.1% are farmers and 21.5% are either students. The results show that while 64.5% are self-employed, 41.2% are salaried workers (21.2% in the public sector and 20.0% in the private sector). Only 15.6% are not employed at the time of gathering data for this study. It can therefore be reasoned that about 84% of participants are employed. However, majority, (over 60%) of those employed in the district are in the informal sector of the economy. Details of respondents’ occupation are shown in table 4.2.5.
4.2.6 Voting Information
Source: Field Data 2018
As shown in table 4.2.6, over eighty percent (80%) of the respondents were registered voters. While 20% were not registered as voters. Majority of participants are therefore, active participants in the electoral process. Considering that more than 60% are above the age of 30, as shown early on, these are most likely, individuals who have taken part in at least more than two elections. They can be said to have clear idea of the questions which the study sought to answer.
Of those who are registered, majority, (80%) registered at the Electoral Area Office, as compared to 20% who registered at the district office. In large part, registration at the Electoral Area Office is done under Periodic Voter Registration regime. To have more than 60% of registered voters opting for periodic registration could be an indication of voter preference for periodic registration method and perhaps a pointer to the difficulties associated with continuous registration as proposed in the CI 91.
Regarding the when participants registered, the study found that 41.5% of voters in the District registered in 2012, 27.7% of voters did their registration in 2014, 20.0% did so in May 2016 and 10.8% registered in August of the same year. In view of the fact that the CI 91 came into force in March 2016, it be seen that only about 38 percent of registered voters interviewed may have registered under the continuous voter registration; further highlighting the issue of voter preference for periodic registration mentioned early on.
4.3 Importance of Registration
Source: Field Data 2018
Importance attached to a civic exercise such as voter registration can affect participation and willingness to overcome difficulties inherent in the process. To this end the study sought to ascertain how important respondents view the registration exercise. The results show that majority think it is important to register as a voter, 6.15% do not think the process is important and 6.15% could not say whether it is important to register or not.
Asked why they think it is important to register, respondents indicated registering qualifies them to have a say in who leads the nation and for that matter what goes on in the country. Especially in those issues which affect their daily lives such as roads constructed in the country, the kind and amount of taxes they might be paying, and the schools which would be built in the country.
A 61 year old farmer, noted “Many people think voting is nothing because they hold the view that voting has changed nothing in this country. But people must remember that their vote is actually their power; and therefore not voting is just like relinquishing your power to those who go and vote…I don’t want anyone to decide on my behalf”
Some participants also pointed out that registration is always needful because even when they are not sure of voting, it is always good register because, an issue might come up during the campaign which might want to have a say on and the only way they can do this is by voting to decide, and if by then they had not registered, voting will be impossible.
A 38 year old mason said in his contribution to the importance of registration “Our forefathers shed their blood to earn us the freedom we are enjoying today, not voting or registering to vote amounts to devaluing their lives”
A few saw the registration as a mere means of obtaining a voter identity card, a de facto national ID to prove their nationality in the country and even when they travel outside.
It can therefore be argued that participants understand how important the registration exercise is, because registration is a precondition to being able to cast their vote on election thereby getting to have a say in the nation’s governance.
4.3.1 Reasons for not registering
Source: Field Data 2018
In line with its objectives, the study also sought from those who could not register why they could not take part in the voter registration exercise. About a third (33.3%) said after making to it to the registration center, the persistent equipment failure cause them to give on the process. Another 33.3% ascribed their inability to register to the distance to the registration centers, 22.2% said they were not available at the period of registration and 11.1% said they were discouraged by long queues at the centers. It is worth noting that none of the people who could not register said they could not do so because they were at the time not qualified. This means that qualified voters can actually find themselves disenfranchised for various difficulties involved in getting registered.
In narrating why he finally gave up on registering, a 33year old cobbler stated: ” we all wanted to register because if you don’t register, it means you are not countered among people living in this country. I travelled from my village to the district office on three occasions, spending one and a half days each time, only to be told that the network is down. It was too much for me” this statement buttresses the point that problems posed by asking potential electorates to come all the way to the district office from their villages as indicted under the CI 91 can have the unintended consequences of excluding people from voting.
This observation supports the views of Braconnier et al (2017),that where registration cost (problems), is perceived as high, voter involvement in the election process from registration to actually turning up on voting day can be negatively affected. Similarly, citizens who get registered because the cost of doing so are reduced, often become more interested in, and eventually become more knowledgeable about the election process than those who did not register at all.
This observation further goes contrary to Mackay (2011)’s proposition on inclusiveness which prescribes that, apart from persons whose location such being in prison and people whose condition, (not of sound mind and below legal voting age) everything should be done to ensure that all who qualify to participate in electing representative, leaders of their country, or region are not excluded from the taking part in the process.
4.3.2Challenges Faced in Registering
In order to answer for the challenges faced in the implementation of the CI 91, those who registered at the district office and therefore under the CI 91 regime were asked to enumerate some of the challenges they faced when they were registering. Their responses have been grouped, tallied and sorted according to the number of times a problem is mentioned.
Table 4.3.2 Challenges Faced in Registering
Source: Field Data 2018
The results obtained indicate that all 13 saw the long distance they had to travel to the district office as a challenge. This represents 100% of respondents in this category. In addition to the problem posed by the distance, 9 person also stated that difficulty in getting a vehicle to the district office is a major concern this represent 69.2%, furthermore, 8 persons also identified poor logistics and high transport fares and poor logistics at the district office as challenges when to registering under the continuous voter registration regime, representing a little over 61%. Only 2 persons alluded to the competence of EC officials as a challenge.
The observation further highlights the problems posed by high cost of voter participation in registration alluded to by Braconnier et al (2017).
Respondents were asked to specify some of the logistics challenges they had to confront when they had to face when registering. Their responses were grouped according to themes and captured in table 4.4
Table 4.4 Logistics Challenges
*Poor network was interpreted to include inability to transmit voter information because access has not been granted by the national EC Headquarters
Source: Field Date 2018
Of the respondents who registered under the CI 91, about 69% mentioned shortage of registration form as one of the problems they faced in the course of registering, the same number indicated poor network as a problem they saw as a major concern. Eleven (11) people said the long queues were a big concern representing 76.9% of those who registered under continuous voter registration; small office space was next with close to 54% of the respondents who registered under CI 91 regime. Printer failure and computer failure were mentioned as problems by 46.2% shortage of printer cartridge and ID card for voter were mentioned as challenges by a little below 40% of the participants and 30.7% identified absence of electric power at the district office as a major issue. While the problems identified by voters were based on the reasons communicated to them by staff of the EC sometimes through party executives. The problem outlined by respondents reflects the situation when registering at the district office as confirmed by EC Staff.
From the results, it was found that long queues, was identified as the most important problem faced when registering. However, it could be argued that long queues could be the outcome of all other problems identified with the process. For example, shortage of printer cartridge or computer failure and a poor network situation can slow down the registration process, resulting in long queues.
As discussed in chapter two, under electoral reforms, many of the reforms in the electoral process were meant to improve democratic representation, enhance transparency of the election processes, improve participation, make election outcome more acceptable to contesting parties, and ultimately enhance the legitimacy of the nation’s democratic credentials.
As noted here, many of these problems are potential deterrents to smooth participation in electoral process and could undermine reform objective by disenfranchising sections of electorates in the district.
As 54 year old farmer puts it “the whole registration process has become as though we are being punished for deciding to exercised our franchise as a Ghanaian or as if they are trying to make it impossible for us to even vote” while this comment may have been mad out of frustration, the disenfranchising potential of the challenges with continuous voter registration could not be overlooked.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, in its Article 21 proposes ‘no citizen shall be unreasonably prevented or restricted from taking part in how the affairs of his/her country is conducted; either directly or through freely elected representative. The same provision specifies that every citizen has the right to vote for someone or put him/herself up to be elected at well-organised and openly-held, periodic elections; which shall be by universal suffrage. Where registering in seen by electorate as restrictive to the point that some qualified voter feel they are being ‘punished for deciding” to participate, then some modification to the process might be needful.
Impact of Challenges on Continuous Voter Registration
Participants were also asked to state how they think the issues raised affected the registration process. The following responses were given.
Slower Registration Process
Participants indicated that the challenges identified in the course registering serves to slow the process down and makes extremely time consuming. They said this as very discouraging as they had to very often, sacrifice a whole days work to be in long queues, only to be told the office has closed and that registration would resume only the next day. Others expressed the frustration in situations where they had travel several miles from their villages, spend the whole of the next day in the queue only to be told that there is one problem or the other for which reason they cannot be registered on that day or that it was time for the EC office to close. Participants pointed out that when these happen, they are either forced to spend the night in the district capital or sometimes travel for a whole day back and come another day.
An 25 year old male students was of the view “if possible, government should open registration centers in villages all over the district, throughout the year so that people can just walk in and register any time of the year” when reminded of the costly nature of his suggestion he added that “then they should give specific days for each village when EC official must come to the villages/electoral area centres and do register votes”
The concern about time wasting in registration process may not be unique to the continuous registration. However, participants were quick to point out that under periodic voter registration, “sometimes you walk to the center and find no queue at all” a 60 years old famer commented. In fact a 54 year old trader who registered under periodic agreed that “the queues are only there in there at the early stages of the registration period, but they gradually thin out as the days wear on”.
Tension at the Registration Centers
Social Scientists generally believe that, when people generally perceive that they are not allowed to achieve their aims easily, or that they are being prevented from achieving an objective they consider as important, their frustration could quickly produce aggressive behavior. In relating some of the effects produced by the challenges posed by the continuous voter registration, participants mentioned tension generated among electorates and party agents supposed to be monitoring the registration. They associated the tension to the fact that over-crowded offices create a lot of discomfort, which is further exacerbated by the impatience brewed by the slow-pace nature of the registration process caused by a number of logistic-related problems: power outage, a computer breakdown or long waiting time required to replenish the office with computer consumables. A 62 year old farmer opined that” at this time, a slightest provocation would result in violent exchange of words sometimes leading to open brawls”
An EC official indicated that “you can have the whole registration process brought to a halt when fights break out due to tensions at the office.” A party agent further adds that “the extent of the fight could reach a level where the police had to be called in to deal with the situation”
Other party agents were unanimous on the fact that tension does sometimes happen among them at polling stations, especially during voting but the frequency with which they occur when registering at the district center is a source of great concern. He recounted particular instance where a man was so badly wounded in a fight that he had to be rushed to a clinic for treatment.
Here again, it can be argued that if the reforms introducing the CI 91 was meant encourage participation, make election outcome more acceptable to contesting parties, and ultimately enhance the legitimacy of the nation’s democratic credentials; then the problems associated with implementing it has a strong potential of compromising its objective if not remedied with the urgency it requires.
Stressful for Electoral Commission Staff
Also regarding the consequences of the problems faced in implementing the continuous voter registration, participants were of the opinion that the pressure resulting from the challenges can make work rather stressful for EC staff. They observed that when conditions at the work place are such that employees cannot predict or control what could happen next; it can make work stressful. Addressing challenges such as obtaining additional registration forms within a limited timeframe, dealing with a poor and slow network situation, getting spoilt computers and printers repaired in time, putting up with frequent power outages, ensuring agitated electorate behave properly in a long queue and copping with a small office, rendered even smaller by sheltering all party agents can sometimes be too stressful.
A party agent, 46 year old, indicated that “the work of we those directly involve in registering the people in the district is already stressful, however the problems we face makes it so tiring that we get home sometimes very exhausted each day”
Supporting the stressfulness of their work under the CI 91 regime, an EC staff noted ” we have very little time to register so much people in a day, so when the problems become so many, it becomes very very stressful, to the point that sometimes you hardly would have any time to even eat the whole day”
Increased Chances of Capturing Wrong Voter Information
Apart from the health implications of stressors at the work place, another effected pointed out by the challenges of continuous voter registration is the high likelihood of capturing voter information, capturing very vital and sensitive information requires composure and concentration to accurately record. However, with the problems enumerated early on, the tendency to wrongly capture this vital information cannot be overstated. As a result, inaccurate voter information could end up in the national voter database. Although none of the EC staff admitted ever making a mistake in the process of recording voter information, many of the participants admit that the high possibility of making such petty but costly errors when overstretched and overworked.
4.6 Disenfranchising Voters
To find whether the challenges of implementing continuous voter registration can lead voters being disenfranchised, all respondents were asked if they felt the reforms embodied in the CI 91 could prevent people from exercising their right to vote. Their responses are illustrated in table 4.6.below
Table 4.6 Respondents View of CI 91’s Potential to Disenfranchise Voters
Source: Field Data 2018
As shown in table 4.6, majority of respondents, (about 87%), were of the view that the challenges faced in implementing continuous voter registration can actually disenfranchise people, only 4.6% do not hold a contrary view, while about 7.7% could not tell whether or not the problems can prevent people from participating in the electoral process of electing the nation’s leaders.
It can therefore be argued that, in the opinion of the people in Wassa Amanfi East district, objectives of the reform embodied in CI 91 would have problems being achieved. As shown by the results of the study, it could in fact serve to disenfranchise otherwise qualified voters.
A high voter turnout is generally regarded as an endorsement of public leaders elected in an election, and signifies the degree of legitimacy, of both elected government and the electoral system through which they are elected. According to Lindberg (2006), this explains why some dictators are eager to falsify high turnout to demonstrate their endorsement their leadership by public opinion. An instance of such is Saddam Hussein’s claim of a 100% participation of his 2002 plebiscite. Bratton ; Van de Walle (1997) further notes that to undermine the legitimacy of governments, some opposition parties do not hesitate to boycott taking part in elections they feel could not deliver a fair verdict of electoral will.
As discussed earlier, reforms should promote electoral participation. However, this does not seem to be the case with the CI 91. It would appear from the findings of the study, that the sheer number of challenges faced in smoothly implementing continuous voter registration could in reality compromise its purpose.
4.7 Improvement proposition and Suggestions to Challenges
Source: Field Data 2018
As part of the aims of the study, respondents were asked to brainstorm on solutions to the problems faced in implementing continuous voter registration. All participants were asked to propose how the problems identified could be resolve in order to make it easier to implement prescriptions of the CI 91. Their responses were grouped according to recurring themes. As shown in table 4.7, opening more registration center was found to be the most recurring proposition, mentioned by 95% of participants. This was followed by suggestion improving supply of computer consumables, which was put forth by about 89% of respondents. Next was the suggestion that a portal allowing for electorates to self-register online. Other propositions include exploring the possibility of extending working hours for EC staff with incentives to go with. 62.2% of respondents identified this as a possible solution to the challenges in the CI 91 implementation. Improvement in the network speed and keeping EC headquarters data transmission access permanently opened were since as viable solutions by about 47% of respondents. The details of suggestions and their importance are presented in table 4.7.
It can be observed, that while all these suggestions may not immediately implementable, they could offer some guidelines to the EC in making amendment proposition to the CI 91.
SUMMARY OF FINDINGS, CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
The CI 91 was introduced to enable continuous voter registration. This study sought to examine the challenges to its implementation in the Wassa Amenfi East Municipal. This chapter presents a summary of the findings of the study and discusses the conclusions reached from the findings. Finally, this chapter proposes some recommendations based on the conclusions of the study.
5.2 Summary of Findings
5.2.1 Voter information and importance of registering as a voter
From the study, it was found that four in every five inhabitants were registered voters. The study further found that of those registered as voters, about 64% registered at the electoral or polling station centres while the remaining 36% did so at the district office thus indicating voter preference for periodic voter registration as against continuous voter registration proposed in CI 91. Residents who did not register gave reasons like equipment failure, distance from the registration centers long queues and the fact that they were not available in the district to register as why they did not register. Equipment failure and distance from center were the most frequently given reasons for not registering.
The study further found, that about 82% of voters in the Wassa Ame0nfi East District saw the need to register as voters as important while the rest 18% either did not think it was important to register or had no opinion of the importance of voter registration exercise
5.2.2 Challenges faced in registering under CI 91
It was also found that inhabitants who registered under continuous voter registration encountered several problems including: distance between where they lived and the district office where they had to register, difficulties in getting transportation to the district center, high transport fares, and poor logistics at the district office. Among these problems, the long distances inhabitants had to travel, the difficulties in getting transportation as well as poor logistics at the district office were seen as most important impediments.
188.8.131.52 Logistics Challenges to CI 91 implementations
In relation to the nature of logistics challenges to smooth implementation of CI 91, voters in the district identified registration form shortage, poor network access, perennially long queues at the district office, lack of sufficient office space, printer and computer failures, poor supply of consumables and unreliable electric power supply as some of the problems. Of these problems, long queues which could be a culmination of all the other challenges identified was the most recurring with over 76% of the people pointing to this issue.
5.2.3 Consequences of the challenges
The study also found that the challenges faced in implementing continuous voter registration as proposed in CI 91 has undesirable outcomes for the whole electoral process, which by extension could undermine the principle of inclusion. These include:
Frustratingly slow registration process forcing inhabitants to visit the district several times to be able to register
Tension at the Registration Centers due to build up frustration, leading to open brawls and violent fights, sometimes requiring police presence to calm it down
Over Stressed EC Staff with attendant consequences for their health
An Increased Chance of Capturing Wrong Voter Information due to stressful work load
5.2.4 Disenfranchising Voters
The study further found that the problems faced can lead to many of the residents to being disenfranchised in the district and undermine improved voter turnout. Since a high voter turnout is generally regarded as an endorsement of public leaders elected in an election, and signifies the degree of legitimacy, of both elected government and the electoral system through which they are elected, the high probability of residents being disenfranchised can lead to non-acceptance of election results and possibly, violence.
In view of the findings of study, the following conclusions were reached
Implementing continuous voter registration in the Wassa Amenfi East, as specified in CI 91 is faced with several challenges. These challenges are in many ways related to the dispersed land area covered by the district. Inhabitants identified the long distance they hard to travel to the district office to register as a major concern, leading some of them to completely give up on the idea of registering entirely.
There is also the challenge of availability of means of transportation due in part from the remoteness of some of the villages in the district resulting in extreme difficulties for those who are remain willing to register.
Other problems relate to the fact that the EC office is poorly resourced. Frequent breakdowns of computer hardware and poor unreliable supply of consumables further worsens an already bad situation. Electric power is unreliable and leaves a lot of room to be desired. The CI 91 requires transmission of voter data to the EC headquarters, however access from the headquarters to do so has remained unpredictable while the network speed is very slow.
An overwhelmed EC staff, stressed up due to the many problems identified leave room for a high possibility to enter wrong voter information, which could leave the nation’s voter data base inaccurate thereby providing grounds for contesting poll outcomes.
Although the inhabitants of the district overwhelmingly think it is extremely important to vote, they believe the problem associated with the smooth implementation of CI 91 can serve to disenfranchise them. The seriousness of the problems has resulted in some inhabitants calling for an abolishing of the instrument and reverting completely to periodic voter registration.
In view of this , the study concludes that in spite of the of the laudable purpose which the instrument is intended to serve, the problems on the ground, particularly in the Wassa Amenfi East district could see its good intention gravely undermined.
To address the problems identified by the study, the following recommendations are proposed.
The EC must seek government assistance in improving network speed to address the issue of slow data transmission from the district EC offices to the national database. This might require either entirely redesigning of the EC portal or increasing internet bandwidth. This will ensure that voter data collected at the district level can be transmitted to the national EC headquarter even during peak periods where many district are trying to transmit information.
Special periods should be designated where the EC staff rotationally move to the villages to register voters. This might require a workable time table so as to keep a skeletal staff presence at the district office.
Avenues for possibility to allow voters to register online could be explored. In this instance, the EC portal could be structured such that voters would be able to enter their personal data and made to validate their registration at the district office to prevent double registration and voter fraud. This would reduce the burden of work at the office by having voter perform part of the registration process at home.
Back up computers and printers should be made available at all times. In addition the EC should consider hiring one competent IT hardware technician for each district office, fully resourced and on call at all times to respond in the event of computer and printer breakdowns.
A stand by generator, capable of working several days hitch free, should be procured for the district to allow a change over from the national grid in the event of power outage.