Ghanaian institute looks to hurry electoral reform

The Danqah Institite, a liberal think tank, is organising a conference in December on the Viability of Electronic Voting in Ghana. The institute is trying to push the pace of electoral reform against the advice of Ghana’s Electoral Commission, which is seeking to implement a biometric registration system but argues caution against moving too hastily towards e-Voting.

In May 2009 a self-assessment forum of the Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC)  identified biometric  voter registration as a key mechanism against multiple voting and impersonation in Ghana’s electoral system. IPAC  charged the Electoral Commission (EC) to initiate systematic procedures to use the biometric mechanism for capturing data in preparation of the next voters register. At a conference at the Ghana Centre for Democratic Development in March, Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, Chairman of the EC, said that “The Commission is considering bio-metric registration of voters but as for bio-metric voting, I don’t think the country is ready for it. If we do, I believe some people will start asking whether the Castle has not programmed the machines with some figures to their advantage”. The EC envisages implementing a new voter registration system in the wake of the next national census in 2010, to be ready for the general election in 2012.

In a column in The Stateman yesterday the Director of the Danqah Institute, Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko, argued that the “technological leap could be the defence weapon against the explosion of electoral violence in the future, which could ultimately deal a fatal blow to the entire democratic experiment here in Ghana and with continental consequences”. He argues that if India can manage it, why can’t Ghana?

There is very good reason to heed the Electoral Commission’s advice. The EC, by it’s own admission, has a weak technological base and support system. A two-phase approach towards e-Voting is far more likely to succeed.