The Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, yesterday ruled that the Electoral Commission can go ahead and compile a new voters’ register, dismissing two suits seeking the use of the existing voter identification cards and birth certificates as source documents for the upcoming voters’ registration exercise, slated for June 30.
The opposition National Democratic Congress and one private citizen, Mark Takyi-Banson, were asking the apex court to direct the EC to stop compiling a new register or allow the use of birth certificates and voter ID cards from prospective voters as proof of identification.
The seven-member panel was presided over by Chief Justice Kwasi Anin Yeboah. Other panel members were Justices Jones Dotse, Paul Baffoe Bonnie, Sule Gbagegbe, Samuel K Marful-Sau, Nene Amegatcher and Professor Ashie Kotey.
The court, however, granted two reliefs sought by the NDC, which had nothing to do with the inclusion of the use of the existing voter ID cards as source documents, and dismissed all the other reliefs.
Among the reliefs the NDC was seeking was a declaration that, upon registration and being issued a voter ID card, a person has an accrued right to vote, which cannot be taken away in arbitrary and capricious manner.
The relief was granted but “subject to the Voter Registration card issued to an eligible voter under the prevailing Constitutional Instrument, C. I. 126.”
The Supreme Court argued that the “fact that the Electoral Commission in exercising their discretion in the discharge of their constitutional mandate in cleaning the voters Register should be deemed as authorised to be acting within the law and the regulations therein, and cannot be faulted even if it is considered that there is a more efficient mode or method available.”
On the relief seeking an order to include all existing voter ID cards as one of the documents serving as proof of identification, the court held: “It is refused and we also reiterate our decision in Abu Ramadan (No.2) supra where this court held that the Electoral Commission in performing their mandate under Article 45 of the Constitution 1992 cannot be compelled to act in a particular manner unless there is clear evidence that they have acted unconstitutionally.”
The Supreme Court, however, upheld the NDC’s relief for a declaration that “upon a true and proper interpretation of the provisions of the Constitution, specifically Article 51 read conjointly with Article 42 of the Constitution, the power of the 2nd Defendant to compile and review the voters’ register must be exercised subject to respect for and the protection of the right to vote.”
It also agreed that “upon a true and proper interpretation of the provisions of the Constitution, particularly Article 42, upon the registration of and issuance of a voter identification card to a person, that person has an accrued right to vote which cannot be divested in an arbitrary and capricious manner.”
“By this decision, the Electoral Commission i.e. 2nd Defendants in Suit No. J1/9/2020 and 1st Defendants in Suit No. J1/12/2020 are hereby directed to commence the compilation of the voter registration exercise as scheduled,” the Supreme Court stated.
Registration starts Tuesday
Welcoming the ruling, the Electoral Commission stated that, for the avoidance of doubt, CI 126 spells out the requirement for proof of identification for the purpose of the upcoming registration exercise.
According to the EC, any person who decides to register should provide either a passport, National Identification Card or a voter registration identification “guarantee form as set out in Form One of the schedules” as evidence for registration.
“As a Commission which believes in the sanctity of the law, we respect the decision of the Supreme Court,” it said in a statement yesterday.
“The Electoral Commission takes this opportunity to assure its stakeholders that the Voters Registration Exercise will start from Tuesday, the 30th of June 2020 to the 6th of August, 2020. The Commission entreats all its stakeholders to hold themselves in readiness for the Voters Registration Exercise,” the EC said.
Source: Daily Statesman