The Coalition of Domestic Election Observers (CODEO) says it was worrying that there was some level of laxity in the respect for the COVID-19 health and safety protocols, particularly the lack of social distancing at some registration centers at the ongoing mass voter registration exercise.
CODEO has therefore called on the Electoral Commission to consider additional mechanisms for enhancing the effectiveness of the respective health and safety protocols at all registration centers at all times.
In a preliminary report issued by CODEO on the on-going mass voter registration exercise by the Electoral Commission, CODEO said the EC must intensify public awareness about the movement plan of registration teams to enhance public awareness and understanding about the mode of the registration exercise so that people do not continue to gather at registration centers when they do not have to do so.
CODEO noted that the practice of party agents collecting voter information on newly-issued voter ID cards after a person has registered should stop as there are other mechanisms for political parties to collect information about the registration process.
It said while the security personnel have been able to bring a number of violent and chaotic situations under control, CODEO entreats the Police Service to swiftly prosecute any persons who violate the electoral laws to serve as an early deterrent to others.
It said CODEO will continue to observe the remaining phases of the exercise and keep the public informed about the conduct of the exercise. CODEO’s 2020 BVR observation exercise is kindly supported by the STAR-Ghana Foundation.
Below is a copy of the report
PRELIMINARY REPORT (1) ON THE ON-GOING BIOMETRIC VOTER REGISTRATION EXERCISE BY THE ELECTORAL COMMISSION
The Coalition of Domestic Election Observers (CODEO) deployed 100 observers for the on-going Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) Exercise being carried out by the Electoral Commission of Ghana (EC) across the country.
CODEO has an observer each in 100 randomly and purposively selected constituencies spread across the 16 regions of the country.
During Phase One of the registration exercise (June 30-July 5) which just ended, each observer followed one EC registration team and observed the process at one registration center throughout the six days.
Observers filed daily observation reports to the CODEO Secretariat in Accra.
In addition to the 100 stationery observers, CODEO also had a few roaming observers in the Greater Accra region who observed the registration exercise at some centers in the national capital.
In assessing the conduct of the exercise, all CODEO observers are required to observe and report on some key indicators such as the location of registration centers, availability of registration materials, availability and functioning of BVR kits, conduct of registration officials and other stakeholders such as political party agents and registration applicants, and adherence to registration rules and regulations.
Observers are also to watch the extent of adherence to COVID-19 health and safety protocols including those instituted by the EC at registration centers.
At the end of Phase One of the registration exercise, the CODEO Secretariat received a total of 575 daily observation reports from 100 constituencies from the 30th of June to July 5, 2020. Below are highlights of CODEO’s preliminary findings from the analyses of the daily reports received from observers.
Opening and Set-Up of Registration Centers.
- Majority of registration centers observed were able to start daily registration on time, but others could not. In majority of cases (66%), registration started by 7:15am. In other instances, registration started between 7:16am-8:00am (28%), or after 8:00am (5%).
- Nearly all (99%) of the registration centers observed were easy to locate. However, one in 10 of registration centers (11%) were found by observers to be not easily accessible to persons with disabilities and the elderly.
- About 95% of registration centers were set up in a manner that allowed for the easy flow of registrants from entry to exit, but 5% were not.
- About 68% of registration centers observed had a team of six or more registration officials. Close to 32% of centers had less than 6 registration officials.
- About 79% of registration centers had stationed uniformed security personnel.
Coalition of Domestic Election Observers (CODEO)
STATEMENT ON THE VOTER REGISTER
Availability of Registration Devices and Materials
- Nearly all registration centers had on a daily basis, a Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) Kit and the requisite registration materials or forms such as the Voter Registration Form, Guarantee Forms, Challenge Forms at the time registration started. Most (99%) registration centers observed did not encounter any shortage of registration materials but close to 1% of centers encountered some shortage of materials.
Presence of Party Agents/Transparency of the Registration Process
- All registration centers observed had both NDC and the NPP agents. Most registration centers (87%) did not have any other political party agent apart from those of the NDC and the NPP. Very few of the registration centers observed had agents from the CPP (6%), PNC (5%), PPP (3%) and other political parties (6%).
Observation of COVID-19 Health and Safety Protocols
- Observers reported that in some instances (28%), registration officials could not ensure that there was a two-meter distance between registration applicants in queue. Observers reported instances of overcrowding of people outside of the inner perimeters of registration centers. This is in spite of the fact that most registration centers (91%) were found by observers to be spacious enough to allow for the necessary social distancing arrangement. However, about 9% of the registration centers observed lacked the required space to enforce the relevant social distancing protocols for registration applicants.
- Observers indicated that in most cases (92%), registration officials checked the temperature of registration applicants before they were admitted into registration centers. However, this was not done in some cases (8%). In few instances, some applicants were turned away from a registration center by officials because of their high body temperature.
- In nearly all instances (99%), registration centers had hand-washing facilities (soap and buckets with water) mounted and available. Hand-washing was strictly enforced by registration officials in most cases (82%). In 18% of the time however, handwashing was not strictly enforced. Observers also indicated that in a few cases (4%), there was shortage of some of the hand-washing facilities at some point in the registration exercise.
- Registration officials did not always wipe or clean the surface of the fingerprint scanners after applicants used them. Observers indicated that officials “always” did so only in 4 in 10 (43%) cases, and “often” or “sometimes” in majority (55%) of cases. At a few instances (2%), the officials ‘never’ wiped or cleaned the surface of the fingerprint scanners after applicants used them.
Performance of Biometric Voter Registration Kits
- Biometric Voter Registration kits encountered some form of malfunction in a few instances (13%). In most cases (87%), no equipment malfunction occurred. Equipment malfunction included unresponsive devices, logging-in difficulties, challenges with capturing fingerprints of applicants and malfunctioning cameras. Observers indicated that in most instances, these challenges were either fixed or the malfunctioning device got replaced. The reports from observers showed that in some cases (8%), malfunctioning BVR kits caused a suspension or delay in the registration process. For example, at the Methodist Primary School No. 2 Danfa registration center in Madina in the Greater Accra region, there was about a two-hour delay to the exercise on Day 1 due to a battery problem, causing the center to close earlier than expected.
The Registration Process
- There were some reported incidents of confusion in some cases (10%) and a few reported instances of violence.
- Observer reports indicated that in a few cases (4%), there was an attempt by someone to physically prevent an applicant from registering instead of filling a challenge form.
- Observers further reported that in some instances (28%), there were people who had stationed themselves around registration centers looking out to guarantee for registration applicants. Observers indicated that some of these people had been brought in and around the registration centers by political party agents so they could guarantee for others.
- In most (96%) cases, observers said the registration exercise was conducted according to the electoral rules and regulations. In 4% of the time, the rules and regulations were violated.
- In majority of cases (60%), registration officials were able to register 100 or more persons a day (sometimes up to 177 registered persons a day). In 21% of cases however, registration officials could register less than 80 persons a day.
- At the end of the first phase (i.e. 6 days) of the registration exercise, over 71% of registration centers had registered 500 or more people. About 24% of centers had registered 700 or more people. About 29% of centers also registered less than 500 at the end of the phase.
Some Reported Incidents
Observers reported of a number of incidents that occurred at some registration centers at some points in time during registration. These included crowding at some registration centers, incidence of violence, incidence of rainfall disrupting the registration process, attempted registration by alleged foreigners, attempted registration by people suspected to be from outside an electoral area, and political party leaders/executives trooping in to registration centers.
Some of these incidents are highlighted below.
- In the afternoon of July 4, 2020, there was a confrontation at a registration center at the Sakasaka Polling Station in Tamale when a political party activist allegedly attempted to get some people from outside the electoral area to register. In the process, the alleged party activist smashed the phones of the Registration Officer and that of a party agent from a different political party. The timely intervention by police officers and local party leaders brought the situation under control as tempers had flared up.
Observers reported of a number of instances where political party executives/leaders kept trooping in and out of registration centers. In one instance on June 30, 2020 at a registration center at the R/C JHS School ‘A’, Elubo in the Jomoro Constituency of the Western Region, the situation nearly resulted in a physical fight when some registration applicants challenged the “unauthorized” presence of party leaders. The intervention of security personnel brought the situation under control.
- Observers report that at some registration centers, political party agents have been taking down the registration details of registration applicants and the situation resulted in some confrontations at one center in the Akatsi North constituency (EP JHS, Dzalele registration center). At this center, a registered voter and a party agent got into a nearly physical confrontation on July 1, 2020 when the former challenged the collection of his voter ID card information by political party agents. The situation resulted in the halting of the registration process for some minutes. In another instance at the same center on June 30, 2020, there was a near brawl between NDC and NPP party agents when the MP for the area urged registration applicants not to give out information on their voter ID cards to political party agents.
- At the registration center at the District Magistrate Court in Pokuase in the Amasaman constituency, a suspected foreigner was arrested by security officers for attempting to register after interrogation by the registration officer. One person who tried to guarantee for the alleged foreigner was also arrested.
- CODEO is worried that there is some level of laxity in the respect for the COVID-19 health and safety protocols, particularly the lack of social distancing at some registration centers observed. Accordingly, CODEO calls on the Electoral Commission to consider additional mechanisms for enhancing the effectiveness of the respect for health and safety protocols at all registration centers at all times.
- The EC must intensify public awareness about the movement plan of registration teams to enhance public awareness and understanding about the mode of the registration exercise so that people do not continue to gather at registration centers when they do not have to do so.
- CODEO observers reported of changes to the movement plans in various parts of the country. CODEO entreats the EC to keep the public adequately informed of all such changes to the movement plan so that eligible persons can adequately prepare to take part in the subsequent phases of the exercise.
- The practice of party agents collecting voter information on newly-issued voter ID cards after a person has registered should stop as there are other mechanisms for political parties to collect information about the registration process.
- While the security personnel have been able to bring a number of violent and chaotic situations under control, CODEO entreats the Police Service to swiftly prosecute any persons who violate the electoral laws to serve as an early deterrent to others.
- CODEO urges the general public to exercise optimum responsibility in ensuring that human lives are not endangered unnecessarily.
CODEO will continue to observe the remaining phases of the exercise and keep the public informed about the conduct of the exercise. CODEO’s 2020 BVR observation exercise is kindly supported by the STAR-Ghana Foundation.