Electoral officers at most polling stations are bracing themselves up for a busy weekend as they are hopeful that the participation in the nationwide voters register exhibition exercise will pick up as many people will take advantage of not having to be at work to verify their information as captured on the register.
Turnout has been low at polling stations across the country for the exhibition exercise by the Electoral Commission (EC), which began on Monday September 10, with most people claiming to be unaware of such an exercise.
The exercise which ends on Tuesday, September 17, is to clean the register by allowing for corrections of particularly, the spelling of names of people registered as well remove those who have passed away, ahead of the December Referundum to decide on voting for people in the District Assembly elections.
Low turn out
All week, the Daily Graphic team visited many polling centres and the story of low turn out were told by the Electoral Officers who wanted to remain anonymous.
Compared to the crowd and interest shown when the limited registration of voters exercise took place recently, generally, the EC officials have had very litttle to do during this ongoing exercise.
The observation of the Graphic teams was that, every now and then, one or two persons would come over to verify their information.
At no time was more than 10 people spotted waiting for their turn to go through the process.
The process of verification is very simple for the registered voter though, it could be a bit strenous for the EC office as it is a manual search done with the search of one’s name.
Though the polling stations have codes, the voters ID card presented helps the officers to look through the register for the name.
Once it’s found, the spelling of the name is checked and once the registered voter is satisfied with the spelling, a box by the information is ticked to indicate that all is correct,
If not, the person is given a form to fill and is required to write the correct name.
Asked whether finding a name was easy or not, an official at the Accra Technical University Polling station said it was easy when one presented one’s ID card but without their card, it was difficult.
That difficulty, he explained, was because there were no electronic machines for the process, making the work of the officials strenuous and the process slow.
Observing some officials going through the process, they spent about 15 minutes glancing through the books looking for the names of voters, who had come without their ID cards to verify their information.
Officials at the SDA polling station were of the view that an electronic device with the database of voters would have been much easier than going through the manual register to verify the names.
“The manual verification takes too much time, I have to flip through the document from the first page to the last page just to get one name which takes too much time,” he added.
Change of information
If a registered voter wants to change his or her name, for instance, a married woman, the person is required to provide the evidence of the gazzetted new name and a marriage ceertificate.
However, data such as age, can not be changed.
Family members requesting for the names of their dead relatives must provide the burial certificate or permit, or the death certificate;obituary posters are not accepted.
The EC officers said the certificates were the only viable or credible proof accepted as mischievous people could present obituary posters of others to get their neams off the register.
“Unfortunately, we are not accepting obituary posters. Those are easy to come by and people could use it to get people off the register perhaps, to disenfranchise them and we don’t want that to happen,” an officer on Bawaleshie Primary School polling station explained.
The EC officers at the Madina and Oyarifa localities explained that the problems they had encountered included the late arrival of materials such as the voter’s register saying that did not facilitate the smooth process of the exercise.
Another issue, was the fact that some of the ID cards presented were very old and in some cases, the information on them were not visible for the officers to work with.
However, the officers used facial identification in those instance, to clear the people.
Most people the Daily Graphic spoke to blamed the low turnout on the low publicity the EC and the National Commission on Civic Education (NCCE) had given about the exercise.
“In fact, until you mentioned it, I did not know that there was an exercise going on,” Kofi Mensah, a businessman at Adenta said. However on being informed, he went to his polling station at the Adenta Municipal Assembly office and within 10 minutes, he had completed the process.
“Thank you for this prompt information. You have saved me from the hassle I would have encountered this weekend as most people in Adenta who leave home very early, may come in their numbers to check and thus make the place very busy,” Mr Mensah said.
Maame Araba Mensima, a hairdresser also complained about not being aware of the exercise, but said since she did not have her ID now, she would ensure that she did it the next day.
Several traders at the Madina Market also told the Daily Graphic that they had not heard about the exercise and questioned why the Information Service announcement vans had not been deployed to notify people.
“Most times, the information people in their announcement vans come around to inform us about such exercises but this time, we have not heard anything. In fact, until I saw the EC officers set up at the polling station next to my house, I didn’t know there was such a thing taking place,” Zenabu Alhassan a trader said.
“Why hasn’t the NCCE or the EC made much noise about the exercise? Is it because they want to disenfranchise some of us or what? How can such an important exercise be so low on publicity?
“What happens if we are not able to verify our names? Does it mean that our names will be taken off? I registered at Suhum, where I used to live so it means I have to go there to verify, meanwhile, I don’t have much money for transport.
“Thanks for alerting me, but the publicity on this important exercise has been very disappointing,” Yaw Mantey Obiri, a cobblar who said he registered at Suhum, until he relocated to Accra last year, said, clearly upset.