Ghana: Requirements and procedures to obtain a voter card; appearance, security features and information indicated on the card, including the voter ID number; incidents of fraud (2015-December 2017) [GHA106033.E]

Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa

1. Voter Registration

Article 14 of Ghana's 2016 Public Elections (Registration of Voters) Regulations, titled "Registration and issue of identification card," provides the following:

14. Where there is no challenge to the application for registration, the registration officer shall enter the name and data of the applicant in the provisional register and shall issue to the applicant a voter identification card in the form determined by the Commission. (Ghana 2016)

Sources indicate that Ghana introduced biometric voter registration ahead of the 2012 general election (GenKey 7 Dec. 2016; EISA Dec. 2012). According to sources, the updated 2012 biometric register of voters was used for the 2016 Ghanaian elections (EU 28 Feb. 2017, 14; EISA 2016, 13). The European Union's Election Observation Mission (EOM) in Ghana final report on Ghana's 2016 presidential and parliamentary elections indicates that a "limited voter registration" occurred in August 2014 and April/May 2016, and that a "continuous voter registration" occurred in August 2016 (EU 28 Feb. 2017, 14). The website of the Electoral Commission of Ghana similarly indicates that, from 28 April 2016 to 8 May, the Commission conducted a "limited biometric voter registration" for Ghanaians who were not previously registered to vote (Ghana n.d.a).

1.1 Provisional Register and Challenges to Inclusions in Registers of Voters

The Ghanaian Electoral Commission's website states that a provisional register is compiled within six month of the end of the registration period for each polling division and that the provisional register states the names, age and sex of the listed individuals (Ghana n.d.b).

The same website indicates that the Electoral Commission opens the provisional register of voters for public inspection and scrutiny at the registration centre for a certain amount of time specified in the Gazette (Ghana n.d.b). Registered voters can inspect the register and contact the "exhibition officer" should there be any discrepancies between the information that appears on the register and the voter card, or if a name is missing (Ghana n.d.b). Anybody entitled to register as a voter can object to the inclusion of someone's name on the register "on the ground that the person is not qualified to be registered as a voter" (Ghana n.d.b).

A 2016 report of the Commonwealth Observer Group on Ghana's 2016 general elections explains that, should a challenge occur, the Electoral Commission assesses the authenticity of the application to register, and further notes that there is also an appeal process that involves "the District and High Courts" (Commonwealth 12 Dec. 2016, 10). For further information on challenges to the inclusion of someone's name in the voter register in Ghana, please see the section "Complaints and Challenges" of the 2016 Public Elections Regulations, which is attached to this Response (Attachment 1).

The Commonwealth Observer Group report adds that when the exhibition period has ended, the Ghanaian Electoral Commission publishes the "'certified' voter register" and that, at this stage, no challenge can be made to someone being included on the list (Commonwealth 12 Dec. 2016, 11). The same source states that a person may vote provided their name is in the certified register at least 60 days before the election (Commonwealth 12 Dec. 2016, 11).

2. Procedures and Requirements to Obtain a Voter Card

Article 1 of the 2016 Public Elections Regulations provides the following:

1.

  1. A person is entitled to have the name of that person included in the register of voters of an electoral area, if that person is
    1. a citizen of Ghana;
    2. eighteen years of age or above;
    3. of sound mind;
    4. resident or ordinarily resident in an electoral area; and
    5. not prohibited by any law in force from registering as a voter.
  2. For the purpose of paragraph (d) of subregulation (1), a person who is confined in a penal institution located in an electoral area is resident in that electoral area.
  3. A person who applies for registration as a voter shall provide as evidence of identification one of the following:
    1. a passport;
    2. a driver's licence;
    3. a national identification card;
    4. an existing voter identification card; or
    5. one voter registration identification guarantee form as set out in Form One of the Schedule that has been completed and signed by two registered voters.
  4. Despite paragraph (e) of subregulation (3), a registered voter shall not guarantee the identity of more than five persons. (Ghana 2016)

Subsection 13(1) to subsection 13(5) of the 2016 Public Elections Regulations's article 13, on the application for voter registration, provide the following:

13.

  1. The Commission shall by notice published in the Gazette inform a person who is entitled to be registered as a voter to apply, during a period specified in the notice, to the registration officer, for an inclusion of the name in the register of the electoral area in which that person
    1. is a resident or ordinarily resident; or
    2. is permitted by law to register.
  2. The application for registration shall be as set out in Form Two of the Schedule.
  3. The applicant shall appear in person before the registration officer at the registration centre at the time specified by the Commission by notice published in the Gazette.
  4. The applicant shall
    1. supply the information required to complete the application form; and
    2. with the thumbprint, authenticate the completed application form.
  5. The registration officer shall complete the application form on behalf of the applicant. (Ghana 2016 emphasis in original)

Copies of Form One and Form Two, included in the 2016 Public Elections Regulations, are attached to this Response (Attachment 1).

Subsection 13(6) to subsection 13(12) of the 2016 Public Elections Regulations provides the following:

6. The information required for the registration of an applicant as a voter includes the following particulars of the applicant:

  1. full name, surname, first name and any other names;
  2. date of birth;
  3. age;
  4. sex;
  5. place of birth;
  6. residential address;
  7. names of parents; and
  8. hometown.

7. A registration assistant shall capture the biometric information, made up of the ten finger prints and the photograph of the head, showing the bare face and two ears without any obstruction of the applicant.

8. Where a person with less than ten fingers requests to be registered, the registration assistant shall capture the prints of the available fingers.

9. The Commission shall make alternative arrangements in relation to biometric information for a person who has no fingers.

10. A special list shall be created for persons who fall under subregulations (8) and (9).

11. The Commission may vary the application procedure and the period of registration in the case of

  1. a person in legal custody; and
  2. a person with disability or a person who is incapacitated.

12. Where it appears from an application that the applicant should be registered as a voter in a constituency other than that to which the application relates, the registration officer shall direct the applicant to the constituency where the applicant should be registered. (Ghana 2016)

According to the Commonwealth Observer Group report, if no challenge is made to names being included in the voter register, the Electoral Commission of Ghana includes the names in the provisional register, assigns a voter identification number to the persons and issues a voter ID card (Commonwealth 12 Dec. 2016, 11). The EOM's report states that the voter ID card is issued "instantly on the spot" (EU 28 Feb. 2017, 14).

According to the Ghanaian Electoral Commission's website, minor corrections which do not involve printing a new voter ID card can be requested at the "exhibition centre" [registration centre] (Ghana n.d.b). The same source states that major corrections and the inclusion of omitted names require visiting the district office where the individual's identity will be verified biometrically and a new card issued (Ghana n.d.b).

2.1 Re-Issuance of Voter Cards

Article 15 of the 2016 Public Elections Regulations provides the following:

15.

  1. A person whose identification card is
    1. lost,
    2. stolen,
    3. damaged,
    4. tampered with, or
    5. destroyed
    shall report to the district officer of the Commission.
  2. The Commission shall on the basis of the recommendation of the district officer authorise the issuance of a replacement voter identification card to the applicant at a cost to be determined by the Commission.
  3. The replacement identification card shall have the word "REPLACED" written on it to indicate that it is a replacement identification card. (Ghana 2016)

The Ghanaian Electoral Commission's website further explains that applicants are required to pay five Ghana Cedis (GH) [C$1.41] for replacement cards (Ghana n.d.a). The same source indicates that applicants must deposit the fee in the Electoral Commission's bank account, take the deposit slip to the District Office, and a new voter ID card will be printed on the premise (Ghana n.d.a).

2.2 Appearance of Voter Cards

Sources indicate that the Ghana voter card is a laminated piece of paper (The Herald 21 Aug. 2015; MyJoyOnline 2 Mar. 2016; Keesing Reference Systems n.d.). A 2015 article from the Herald, a Ghana-based, tri-weekly newspaper, states that the Ghanaian voter card contains the polling station code, the date of issuance, the voter identity number, as well as the sex, age and name of the voter, the date of registration and the inscription "Electoral Commission of Ghana - Voter Card" (The Herald 21 Aug. 2015). Keesing Reference Systems adds that the card is 95 millimetres by 65 millimetres (Keesing Reference Systems n.d.). According to the EOM's report, the biometric data collected by the registration officer, namely a photograph and fingerprints, is barcoded both in the register of voters and on the voter card (EU 28 Feb. 2017, 14). A 2016 opinion piece on how the voter cards could be improved, published on MyJoyOnline, a Ghanaian news portal (MyJoyOnline n.d.), states that the "recent [card was] designed for the biometric registration in 2012" (MyJoyOnline 2 Mar. 2016). According to Keesing Reference Systems, the Ghanaian voter card has unlimited validity (Keesing Reference Systems n.d.). A 2012 sample of the Ghanaian voter card is attached to this Response (Attachment 2).

3. Allegations of Voter Fraud and Irregularities

An article from the Ghanaian Chronicle, an Accra-based newspapers published three times a week, reports in 2015 that Ghana's opposition party, the New Patriotic Party (NPP), alleged that the register of voters contains "an abnormally high rate (54 [percent]) of registered voters relative to the population" (The Ghanaian Chronicle 20 Aug. 2015). A 2015 article published on MyJoyOnline similarly states that, according to the NPP, the register of voters has "an unusually high and statistically questionable voter population of 14 million, representing 56 percent of the total population" (MyJoyOnline 18 Aug. 2015). According to sources, the NPP further alleged that, after reviewing less than 10 percent of Togo's register of voters, Ghana's voter register and Togo's had more than 76,000 "potential matches" of names and facial features (The Ghanaian Chronicle 20 Aug. 2015; MyJoyOnline 18 Aug. 2015). According to the EOM's report, the Ghanaian Electoral Commission denied the allegations from the NPP as unsubstantiated and, in the EOM's view, "[t]hese allegations were also not reflected in the number of objections filed during the exhibition period, as only some 5,000 voters were objected to on other grounds than being deceased" (EU 28 Feb. 2017, 14). Sources report that, according to the NPP, the pictures of the Togolese citizens allegedly included in Ghana's register of voters are "stale photographs" (MyJoyOnline 18 Aug. 2015) or "were not taken in a live environment[,] but rather scanned from existing pictures and documents" (The Ghanaian Chronicle 20 Aug. 2015).

According to the EOM's report, the call by the NPP for a new Ghanaian register of voters was "rejected" by the Ghanaian Electoral Commission and by the Supreme Court of Ghana (EU 28 Feb. 2017, 14). Sources indicate that, in 2016, the Ghanaian Supreme Court ordered the Electoral Commission to remove from the registers of voters the names of individuals who only provided their National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) card as evidence of identity (Commonwealth 12 Dec. 2016, 11; EU 28 Feb. 2017, 14) during the 2012 voter registration exercise, according to the EOM's report (EU 28 Feb. 2017, 14). Sources indicate that, in July and August 2016, voters who were removed due to the Supreme Court's decision could re-register (Commonwealth 12 Dec. 2016, 11-12; EOM 28 Feb. 2017, 14). According to the Commonwealth Observer Group, 27,806 voters did so (Commonwealth 12 Dec. 2016, 11-12). A 2015 article from the Ghanaian Chronicle reports that, according to a NPP representative, "being a citizen of Ghana is not a requirement for obtaining a NHIS card." (The Ghanaian Chronicle 20 Aug. 2015). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

The Commonwealth Observer Group report states that the Electoral Commission undertook, in July and August 2016, the following actions:

  • [d]eleted 56,772 entries which had been made using NHIS cards as evidence of identity;
  • [c]onducted an exercise for a limited period during which new voters could join the register;
  • [c]onducted a public 'exhibition' of the voter register, to provide an opportunity to correct entries and to challenge the inclusion of any ineligible persons. Citizen observers reported that although this exercise was conducted smoothly, there was a disappointing level of engagement and scrutiny both by members of the public and by the political parties themselves. (Commonwealth 12 Dec. 2016, 11-12)

Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

In a 2012 report on Ghana presidential and parliamentary elections, the Commonwealth Observer Group states, regarding voter fraud, that

there were reportedly some 20,000 underage persons on the voter register [in 2012]. In an extract of the register provided to the [Commonwealth Observer Group] it was clear from the photographs of registrants that a number of persons appeared to be children.

It was incomprehensible to the members of the [Commonwealth Observer Group] why [the Electoral Commission] Registration staff did not exercise their clear authority to challenge the registration of these persons during the initial registration process. (Commonwealth 9 Dec. 2012, 16)

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

The Commonwealth. 12 December 2016. Commonwealth Observer Group. Ghana General Elections: 7 December 2016. [Accessed 30 Nov. 2017]

The Commonwealth. 9 December 2012. Commonwealth Observer Group. Ghana Presidential and Parliamentary Elections. [Accessed 7 Dec. 2017]

Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA). 2016. EISA Pre-Election Assessment Mission Report: Republic of Ghana 25 - 30 September 2016. [Accessed 11 Dec. 2017]

Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA). December 2012. "Ghana: Voter Registration and the Voter's Roll." [Accessed 7 Dec. 2017]

European Union (EU). 28 February 2017. European Service, External Action. EU EOM Ghana Presidential and Parliamentary Elections 2016 Final Report. [Accessed 8 Dec. 2017]

GenKey. 7 December 2016. "Ghana Uses Biometric Voter Verification for Third Election Running." [Accessed 8 Dec. 2017]

Ghana. 2016. Electoral Commission. Public Elections (Registration of Voters) Regulations, 2016. C.I. 91. [Accessed 30 Nov. 2017]

Ghana. N.d.a. Electoral Commission. "Replacement of Lost Voter ID Cards." [Accessed 6 Dec. 2017]

Ghana. N.d.b. Electoral Commission. "Voter's Exhibition." [Accessed 4 Dec. 2017]

The Ghanaian Chronicle. 20 August 2015. "NPP Exposes Fraud in Voters Register [Press Conference]." (Factiva). [Accessed 7 Dec. 2017]

The Herald. 21 August 2015. "Original Togolese Voters' ID Cards Expose NPP." [Accessed 8 Dec. 2017]

Keesing Reference Systems. N.d. "Ghana - Domestic Document of Identity." [Accessed 8 Dec. 2017]

MyJoyOnline. 2 March 2016. Augustine B. Anderson. "A New Ghanaian Voter ID, a Proposal." [Accessed 8 Dec. 2017]

MyJoyOnline. 18 August 2015. Malik Abass Daabu. "76,000 Foreigners Found on Ghana's Voters' Register." [Accessed 7 Dec. 2017]

MyJoyOnline. N.d. "About Us." [Accessed 11 Dec. 2017]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: Centre for Public Impact; Commonwealth Observer Group; Danquah Institute; International Foundation for Electoral Systems.

Internet sites, including: ecoi.net; International Foundation for Electoral Systems; UN – Refworld; US – Department of State.

Attachments

  1. Ghana. 2016. Electoral Commission. Public Elections (Registration of Voters) Regulations, 2016. C.I. 91. [Accessed 30 Nov. 2017]
  2. Keesing Reference Systems. N.d. "Ghana - Domestic Document of Identity." [Accessed 8 Dec. 2017]