The Electoral Commission (EC) will soon roll out a special programme under the mass voters registration exercise to register qualified senior high school (SHS) students currently in school and inmates of prison establishments.
The Director of Electoral Services at the commission, Dr Serebour Quarcoo, who disclosed this, said a tentative date for that special registration exercise would be announced in the coming days.
“We are finalising arrangements to go to SHSs and prisons across the country to register qualified Ghanaians there, and the two exercises will be rolled out together,” he told the Daily Graphic in an interview yesterday.
Throwing more light on how the exercise would be conducted, he said EC officials would move to the schools and prison establishments on specific days to register eligible people.
“There will not be permanent registration centres there; what will happen is that our officials will go to those places, and based on the numbers, register the people and leave,” he stressed.
The Daily Graphic sought the interview to clear the air on whether or not the EC would register students on SHS compounds and prison establishments.
Following the phase-out easing of restrictions by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo last month, final-year students in basic schools, final-year students and second-year Gold Track students in SHSs and final-year students in tertiary institutions have returned to school to complete their courses.
Since the EC started the mass registration exercise last Tuesday, there have been concerns over how SHS students who are 18 years and above will get the opportunity to register.
This is especially so when the Ghana Education Service (GES), as a measure to curb the spread of the COVID-19, has directed heads of SHSs to send home any final-year student who leaves the school compound.
The Upper East Regional Director of the EC, Mr William Obeng Adarkwa, was reported to have said the commission had been unable to register eligible SHS students in the region.
He had indicated that all registration centres being used for the ongoing mass registration exercise had been gazetted and so there was no room for extra centres that could accommodate students in their schools.
Window of hope
However, Dr Serebour said the EC had decided to do special registration on SHS compounds in order not to disenfranchise qualified students.
“The students will get an opportunity to register and get their names on the electoral roll when our officials go to the schools. But it must be noted that those centres will not be permanent,” he stressed.
Touching on the registration of prisoners, Dr Serebour said the law required that qualified Ghanaian prisoners be allowed to register and vote during elections.
“In 2012, the EC registered prisoners. We will go there this year again and register prisoners because the law mandates us to do so,” he said.
Under Article 42 of the 1992 Constitution, the Supreme Court, in 2010, upheld the rights of prison inmates to vote in general elections in Ghana.
That was after the Centre for Human Rights and Civil Liberties(CHURCIL), an organisation dedicated to the promotion of human rights and the protection of civil liberties, and Mr Ahuma-Ocansey, a private legal practitioner, had, in a consolidated suit, sought the court’s interpretation on the right of remand prisoners to vote.
“The EC, in 2016, registered 2,276 prison inmates throughout the country to participate in that year’s general election,” he said.
Dr Serebour gave an assurance that the EC would go all out to ensure that no eligible Ghanaian willing to get his or her name on the electoral roll was disenfranchised.
He called on stakeholders in the electoral process, especially the political parties, to collaborate with the commission to ensure that the registration exercise was conducted in a peaceful atmosphere.
The EC director reiterated the need for persons who turn up at the registration centres to adhere strictly to the safety protocols.