The mass voters registration exercise to prepare for the December 7, 2020 general election took off yesterday on an enthusiastic note with thousands of Ghanaians showing up to have their names on the new electoral roll being compiled by the Electoral Commission (EC).
The EC, which described the first day of the exercise as largely successful, has estimated that 16 million Ghanaians are eligible to take part in the 38-day exercise.
Across 14 out of the 16 regions, reporters of the Daily Graphic visited some registration centres where enthusiasm in the exercise was visible.
However, late start, people showing up without nose masks and challenges with social distancing characterised the opening day. Also, poor communication on the cluster system resulted in many people showing up at some registration centres only to find out that the exercise at those polling stations had been scheduled for other dates.
The reporters who visited the centres were Kester Aburam Korankye in Accra; George Folley in the Eastern Region; Emmanuel Adu-Gyamerah and Biiya Mukusah Ali in the Bono, Bono East and Ahafo regions; Vincent Amenuveve in the Upper East Region; Daniel Kenu and Kwadwo Baffoe Donkor in the Ashanti Region; Dotsey Koblah Aklorbortu, Western and Western North regions; Shirley Asiedu-Addo, Central; Della Russel Ocloo, Tema; Mohammed Fugu, North East Region and Northern regions; Mary Anane-Amponsah and Nana Konadu Agyeman in the Volta Region, and Emmanuel Modey in the Upper West Region.
Persons who had the Ghana Cards and passports did not have much problems going through the process but for those without any of the two source documents, they had to wait for others to finish with their registration to vouch for them.
Agents of the two main political parties, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the National Democratic Congress (NDC), were at post to observe the exercise.
In several of the registration centres, enthusiastic Ghanaians had queued up by 6a.m. in order to be among the first to be registered.
There was a unique situation at the Kasoa Iron City in the Central Region where some persons who went to the registration centre very early used stones to form a long line in a bid to secure their places before going back home to prepare and return later to go through the registration.
But, registration officials, on seeing the stones, said the plan would not work. They therefore asked those reporting to form a queue to be attended to.
As of 12 noon, 20 people had registered at the Additrom registration centre in the Korle Klottey Constituency in Accra.
At the Presby Primary Number One centre in Bolgatanga, six people had registered as of 8:30a.m. while at the Sunyani Technical University registration centre, 32 forms had been issued as of 9.30 a.m.
In Tema, as of 9:05 a.m., only 10 participants had successfully registered at the Community Two Police Station centre.
In Cape Coast, 10 persons had registered at the Wiseway centre as of 10 a.m. while at Nalerigu in the North East Region, 34 persons had registered at about 9 a.m. At the Kabore Primary School Centre at Ho Bankoe, 40 people had gone through the process as of 8:00a.m.
The COVID-19 safety protocols were not fully complied with. For instance, although Veronica buckets were placed at the registration centres to enable people to wash their hands before going through the registration, many people ignored the washing of hands.
However, the ‘no nose mask, no entry’ policy was applied to the fullest.
But, the most abused protocol was the social distancing.
Few technical challenges delayed the exercise to the chagrin of party agents and prospective registrants.
In the Asawase Constituency in Kumasi, the process was temporarily truncated following a technical fault in some of the kits at the Mallam La Dan registration centre.
Apart from the technical challenges, there were also human-centred challenges, some having to do with the vulnerable.
An example was in the Volta Region where persons who fell in the vulnerable group struggled to be prioritised in the exercise.
The National Organiser of the NPP, Mr Sammy Awuku, who was at the Alajo Central Mosque registration centre, in an interview, said the party had equipped all their representatives across the country with a poll book to record how many people were registered and also capture their details.
The NDC Member of Parliament for North Tongu, Mr Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, who also visited some of the centres to observe the conduct of the exercise, expressed satisfaction at the massive turnouts, the timely start of the exercise and various COVID-19 containment protocols, but noted that there were some challenges with the pace of the process.
In its assessment of the first day of the exercise, the EC said it was largely successful, reports Timothy Ngnenbe.
The Director of Electoral Services at the EC, Dr Serebour Quarcoo, however, admitted that a number of challenges characterised the process.
“We had initial challenges with people refusing to observe social distancing and some of our officials not being able to operate the biometric registration kits, but the success rate was beyond our expectation,” he told the Daily Graphic.
Tackling the issues
On social distancing and other safety protocols at the registration centres, he said, the situation was worrying and required stakeholder collaboration.
Touching on claims that some of the biometric registration kits were malfunctioning, he indicated that what happened was a technical challenge but not a breakdown of the machines.
Dr Serebour added that the EC had some 5,000 technicians on the ground to help fix faulty registration kits.
He debunked claims that some of the registration kits had been used to register some persons ahead of the mass registration.
Dr Serebour attributed the late start of the registration exercise in some areas to distribution challenges and gave an assurance that the challenge had been resolved.