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EC responds to Supreme Court order on voter identification cards

EXCLUSIVE: The Electoral Commission sets out the legal basis for its ruling on voter IDs – the existing cards are “fruits of a poisoned tree”

The Electoral Commission (EC) is arguing that the fundamental legal reasons for its decision not to use the existing voter identification cards as an acceptable form of ID for its registration exercise this year is that the Supreme Court itself has held that the current voters’ register is not reasonably credible.

By implication, the EC says, any voters’ cards issued using the existing voters’ register are equally not reasonably credible.

Court documents seen by Asaaseradio.com set out the EC’s case in colourful detail, describing the existing ID cards as “fruits of a poisoned tree”.

The EC makes this submission in its 31-page response to the 4 June 2020 order of a seven-member Supreme Court panel, demanding that it set out the legal basis for its decision to exclude the existing voters’ card from the list of IDs admissible for the voter registration exercise due to begin at the end of this month.

The EC’s Supplementary Statement of Case was filed today, 8 June 2020, fulfilling the timelines given by the Supreme Court.

The EC’s argument

The EC’s statement of case for why it refuses to accept the existing voter ID cards for the 2020 voter registration is set out in a document entitled Supplementary Statement of case of the 2nd Defendant pursuant to the orders of the Court dated 4th June 2020.

It presents four main arguments.

In the first instance, the EC says: “The existing voter register which was compiled in 2012 pursuant to CI 72 and revised since by limited registration exercises has been held by this Honourable Court as not being reasonably credible. By implication, the cards issued pursuant to it are also not reasonably credible.”

The supplementary statement, filed by counsel for the Electoral Commission, Justin Amenuvor, further says: “In respect of the cards issued pursuant to CI 12 [of 1995], the 2nd Defendant (EC) has found that those voter identification cards were issued without any form of identification at all and its ineligibilities, breaches and excesses were imported into the 2012 register pursuant to CI 72, in breach of Article 42 and displacing the credibility of the CI 12 cards.”

“Continuous breach”

The EC’s third point is that “it found a fundamental omission in its training manual and the manner in which the voter registration exercise was carried out in 2012 partly in breach of its own binding CI 72 and also in breach of Article 42 of the constitution”.

In the fourth instance, the EC argues that “the 2nd Defendant wants a break from the past to remedy all the carried on ineligibilities, excesses and breaches of Article 42 as the existing cards have become fruits of a ‘poisoned tree’.

“It will be in continuous breach of Article 42 of the constitution to totally disregard this Honourable Court’s own judgment to continue using the existing cards and it is in contravention of Section 8(1) of Act 750 (as amended) for the 2nd Defendant to accept the existing voter identification cards as a means of proving citizenship for the compilation of the new register,” the supplementary statement says.

It continues: “Your Lordships, we (EC) submit that what Section 8(1) of Act 750 (as amended) has done is to effectively exclude the existing voter identification card as a form of identification for the purposes of proving citizenship, which is the first and foremost qualification required of an individual applying to be registered as a voter.

“It is the considered opinion of the 2nd Defendant (EC) that to accept any form of identification, including the existing voter identification cards, which is not provided for under Section 8(1) Act 750 (as amended) as a means of proving identification for the compilation of the new register, will be in contravention of statute,” the EC supplementary statement concludes.

The NDC’s argument

The National Democratic Congress has also filed a supplementary statement of case through its lawyers. The NDC statement is signed by Godwin Edudzi Tamakloe

In it, the party submits that: “The 2nd Defendant (EC) has no legal basis to exclude the use of existing voter ID cards for the purposes of registration and that should this Court allow the 2nd Defendant to deny Ghanaian citizens the use of their existing voter ID cards for registration, it would impair the right of citizens to register and vote. That would be a dent on the gains made by this Court in giving life and meaning to Article 42 of the constitution.”

Principle of universal adult suffrage

“We end by relying on the poignant statement by Kpegah JSC in Apaloo versus Electoral Commission supra at page 410, where His Lordship stated: ‘Thus, consistent with our belief in and adherence to the principle of universal adult suffrage, the right to register and vote is guaranteed every citizen of Ghana who is 18 years or above and not of unsound mind. In the case of Tehn-Addy versus Electoral Commissioner (1996-97) SCGLR 589, the plaintiff was denied the chance to register as a voter, and he brought an action claiming that the Electoral Commission had violated the constitution, 1992.

“This court unanimously held that every sane Ghanaian citizen of 18 years and above had the right under Article 42 of the constitution, 1992 to be registered as a voter. And that the constitutional right of voting was indispensable in the enhancement of the democratic process and it could not be denied in the absence of a constitutional provision to that effect.’ ”

The NDC statement continued: “The function of the 2nd Defendant under Article 45(e) is to undertake programmes for the expansion of the registration of voters and not to undermine or place unnecessary impediments on registration. The 2nd Defendant’s constitutional function includes making it easier to register to vote and not to place impediments on the enjoyment of that fundamental right to be registered and to vote.

“In the circumstances, we invite this Honourable Court not to be frightened by the spectre of ghosts, minors and foreigners on the register. For ghosts may be able to receive salaries when on the payroll but cannot appear to vote when on the voter roll and foreigners and minors can be removed from the roll of voters if the 2nd Defendant is diligent and does its work well,” the NDC’s lawyer concludes.

Next hearing

The Supreme Court panel, presided over by the Chief Justice, Kwasi Anin-Yeboah, is expected to convene again on Thursday (11 June) to adjudicate the matter.

Wilberforce Asare

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