World News‎ > ‎

Biometric voter registration begins in Ghana

posted 26 Mar 2012, 05:44 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 26 Mar 2012, 05:45 ]

Ghana begins biometric voter registration ahead of elections expected in December this year. The exercise aims to prevent electoral fraud and improve on the country's election process.

Ghana's Electoral Commission rolled out a nationwide biometric voter registration exercise for the first time ever on Saturday (March 24) to help collect data from about 12 million voters, ahead of a December poll.
Applicants will have their photos and finger prints taken using computers that will store their details in the country's new voter register.

Registered voters were handed new identity cards bearing their photographs and a bar code. The exercise will be carried out in four phases which will last 10 days each, and is expected to end on May 5th.

The project will cost about 45 million US dollars and is meant to prevent electoral fraud in future polls.

Ghana joins a number of African countries that are already adopting advanced technology to streamline the electoral process. Kenya, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo already use finger-print scanning.

"We hope this is going to eliminate the other processes especially, double registration which we were encountering in the past so to me it is very very important for government coming out and voting money for such a process to be undertaken," said James Osae Cobblah, an Accra resident who took part in the exercise.

The Electoral Commission says that even though measures had been taken to prevent cases of multiple registration and impersonations in the past, the problem still continued. The biometric voter's register is expected to ensure only those who qualify to vote get a chance to do so once.

"The register will be very clean and lean, the bloated register which we had in the past will not happen again so I expect this election to be a much cleaner election than the previous election we had," Esi Jonah, a political science lecturer at the University Of Ghana said.

However, some analysts warn that the system cannot detect foreigners and minors who try to vote, which has been a problem in past elections. The 23,000 polling stations in the country are also not networked to share the same registration information, which may leave room for possible multiple registration.

The Electoral Commission has been pushing people to register and is also trying to educate voters, after rumours spread in the country that facial scans and finger printing could cause cancer.

"In the beginning when we heard of the biometric registration we thought it was going to be a very difficult thing so some were pulling back, but after registration I realised that its simple and I feel great, it's not stressful," said Wubeida Musah Gariba a voter.

About 42,000 officials have been trained to help in the registration process the Electoral Commission says voter turnout will determine whether or not the system will be successful.