The case for a new Biometric Voters Register (BVR)

The nation is going through a difficult period economically with new graduates year in and year out from Senior High School and all tertiary levels. The currency looks like it has stabilized but if it appreciates a bit; it would help businesses which import raw materials from abroad. Beyond all this, the Electoral Commission (EC) has also made a proposal for the compilation of a new Biometric Voters Register (BVR) but Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), social commentators and other political parties are of the view that the Electoral Commission (EC) can work with the old register which is currently Available.

There are many questions that arise from the Electoral Commissions decision to compile a new register. In 2016, the Electoral Commission opened up registration to those who had turned 18 but did not have a Voter’s Identification Card to register for the 2016 General Election. In 2019, for the purpose of the District Level Elections (DLE) which came off on December 17, the Electoral Commission again provided the opportunity for citizens who have turned 18 to register and contribute to the electoral process in their respective communities. Objectively, if you analyze the 28-page document of the Electoral Commission on the need for a new biometric voter’s register (BVR), the EC has a valid point of not being able to update hardware which is a physical component. Citizens should read through the material extensively and reach a consensus. This new Biometric Voters Register issue should in no way lead citizens of the country to verbal arguments or a Battle.

On the other hand, the National Identification Authority (NIA) is embarking on a proper exercise and this includes taking pictures of the eyes (the iris) and most of the essential elements the EC is talking about as it tries to “Prevent fraud and manipulation due to an inaccurate voter’s register.” When you look at the identification exercise being carried out by the National Identification Authority (NIA) where individuals need to present Passport, Tax Identification Number (TIN), Birth Certificate, Voters ID and National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) card, it looks more comprehensive and accurate and begs the question as to which process is more Credible?

Can the Electoral Commission (EC) wait and tap the data from the National Identification Authority (NIA)? In the 28-page document, it was revealed that a lot of the physical components have broken down. As we move forward with a supposedly new voters register, can the Electoral Commission ensure that software and hardware would be able to withstand the test of time. Can the materials be more Durable?

As per the 28-page document by the EC, the features of a new Biometric Voters Register have “Mechanisms in place to remove dead people and clean-up the register.” This says a lot about the developmental process Ghana is still going through. We are so far behind in almost everything; the nation does not have a national database which holds the personal records of all citizens. Does it mean that as citizens, we are Expendable? It is understandable why citizens can be trapped in other nations I suppose. Huge sections of the population feel the EC is trying to tie the hands of taxpayers in the face of a General Election ─ an event which has across the years according to many individuals looks financially Exploitable.

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The nation should act right and get a one-off system which can be updated from time to time. We all understand that there are people who have died and whatever happens, their names need to be removed from the register. The EC has complained about going through registers and cross checking names manually which is stressful. Frankly, the old register is not Fixable.

There have been stories about the incumbent government trying to disenfranchise certain sections of the strongholds of opposition parties. As citizens, we should not always allow people to relay information to us. The orientation of who we are as black people was built on oral communication. Notwithstanding the inception of our lives, we must find and read information for ourselves so that we would be abreast with the real happenings of the country. Reading would not see majority of us misled by propaganda because we are Gullible.

The mere fact that the country lacks an extensive database on which the EC can tap data from is horrible. Hopefully, the National Identification Authority’s exercise can see the country cross this Hurdle. At the end, it would just become routine because even when power was supposed to change hands for the first time after 20 years, it was successful. The 2020 General Election is nothing difficult the EC cannot Handle.

When people die, do their families just receive physically printed certificates of death? Don’t physicians and healthcare professionals especially medical examiners contribute to a national database whereby they can access a person’s profile and confirm them as deceased. Thereby confirming their expiration on the national database and subsequent removal from the voters register. One of the areas the National Identification Authority (NIA), the Electoral Commission (EC) and all governments institutions must look at is ensuring all electronic systems are secured and Interoperable.

It is an eyesaw when you watch and listen to members of political parties arguing on radio and television, sometimes to the point where they look like they want to Jostle.

Interoperability is important and personnel of EC should put all that into perspective because they are Knowledgeable.

Features of the new proposed system among others are “Use of facial recognition as an additional verification modality and must be secure preventing mischief from external and internal sources.” If all these measures are in place, no individual or political party on the outcome of the election would be able to hold the Electoral Commission Liable.

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All the political parties must throw their support behind either one of the EC or the opposing CSOs. At the end, the nation needs to reach a conclusion; no political party should be neutral. No one should be on the fence or try to be in the Middle.

When you consider the amount of money which would go into the conduction of the 2020 General Election which stands at a Grand Total of USD 74,364,500 for old BVR and BVDs,  it means the amount of money for new BVRs and BVDs which stands at USD 56,000,000 is fairly Negotiable.

Outdated Software versions include Microsoft Windows 7, 10, 2003, 2008 and 2012, Redhat Enterprise Linux 5.8, and VMWare ESX 5.0 among others and an outdated BVMS from Oracle.

The Electoral Commission (EC) can put some of their personnel in the various districts to explain their reason for the new BVRs so that they would get the total validation of the People.

At the end, the elections would be free and fair, and no one would feel the amount of money invested or the outcome of the election is Questionable.

There is a particular feature of the new system being proposed which is “It allows for continuous registration of voters” which when compared to the old system “Which had a potential risk of data loss as there was no backup or disaster recovery plan” is more Reasonable.

The seat of government would not be one that citizens want to scramble. This is because Ghana is the only sub-Saharan African country that is known worldwide to be democratically Stable.

Despite the challenges of the current system which comprises of Biometric Voters Register Kit (BVR), Biometric Voter Device (BVDs), Network, Data Centre, Application Components, Operational Issues, citizens can only hope the new BVR exercise would be completed on time so that there would be maintenance of the Electoral Timetable.

Thoroughly analyzing the ECs 28-page document and considering the outdated systems and more especially their quest to ensure free and fair elections, I think the call for a new BVR is totally Understandable.

Citizens should not feel they are being taken advantage of because they are Vulnerable.

At the end, the EC must take appropriate steps to see to the effective and efficient registration of all voters in a smooth process so that it would not lead people to ask questions and more importantly cause electorates to Wrangle.


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