Names of NHIS card holders to stay--in voters' register
The decision has been greeted with mixed reactions by some political parties who spoke to the Daily Graphic.
The Electoral Commission (EC) yesterday pulled the stitches out of the hopes of political parties that want the names of electorate who registered with National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) cards deleted from the register, insisting that it would not do so.
According to the EC, its interpretation of the Supreme Court order for the cleaning of the register did not mean that the names of voters who used the NHIS cards to register should be removed from it.
But Mr Abu Ramadan, the former People’s National Convention (PNC) Youth Organiser who went to the Supreme Court to fight the EC on the issue, expressed worry about the commission’s interpretation and hinted that he would go back to the court to ask it to slap contempt charges on all seven commissioners of the EC.
While the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the People’s National Convention (PNC) backed the EC’s position, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) insisted that by its position, the EC had violated the law.
The commission, in a statement issued after an Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC) meeting where the EC updated the parties on issues of concern, argued that it had no power to unilaterally delete the names of voters from the register.
The meeting covered issues concerning the just-ended limited voters registration exercise, plans for the continuous registration and the deadline for smaller parties.
“For the avoidance of doubt, we wish to state that under the existing and applicable law, where a person’s registration is challenged during a registration process, that challenge must be referred to a District Registration Review Committee (DRRC) for determination. The EC is only permitted to act on the decision of the committee,” the statement said.
The Supreme Court on May 5, 2016, directed the EC to delete the names of the voters who were not eligible, deceased persons and minors from the voters register.
The court, however, urged the EC to give those whose names would be deleted an opportunity to re-register.
The decision was widely interpreted by some legal and political brains to mean that the names of voters who registered with the NHIS cards as proof of their citizenship would be deleted from the register.
The Supreme Court had earlier ruled against the use of the NHIA cards as identification for registering voters for national elections, on July 30, 2014, thereby restraining the EC from allowing people to do so.
Court affirmed EC’s position?
The EC said the judgment of the Supreme Court affirmed the commission’s consistent position on the status of the current voters register and the mechanisms for cleaning it to make it acceptable to all stakeholders.
“The EC remains willing and committed to ensuring a clean register prior to the elections in accordance with the law,” it explained.
For voters whose names are already on the provisional register, the EC said the law required that an objection is made during the exhibition process either by a registered voter or an official of the commission
These objections are then referred to the District Registration Review Officer (DRRO) for determination. The commission is required by the law to act on the decision of the DRRO following determination of the objection.
The commission was of the view that as an institution that derived its existence from the law, it could not be seen to be acting arbitrarily.
“We are delighted that the Supreme Court agrees with us on this position. In complying with the directives of the Apex Court, the commission intends to fully follow the applicable law.
“The commission is urging all stakeholders in the political process to join us in working to ensure a cleaner register ahead of this year’s election,” the statement said.
The Director of Elections of the NDC,Mr Samuel Ofosu-Ampofo while declining to state the position of the party, said the NDC would respect the EC’s position.
“The Supreme Court has given its order and the EC is an independent body. We cannot implement our understanding. The body that has the mandate to implement the court’s decision has stated its understanding and how it will go about it. We can only respect the position of the court and the EC,” he said.
The acting General Secretary of the NPP, Mr John Boadu, said the EC had missed the point by the position it took.
According to him, the Supreme Court would not order that minors, the dead and foreigners be given the opportunity to re-register if their names were removed on the orders of the court.
He insisted that the names of those who registered with the NHIA cards must be removed and they must be allowed to re-register if they qualified as directed by the court.
He wondered why the EC, which had earlier told the court that it had a database on those who registered with NHIS cards would now turn around and do the contrary.
The Communications Director of the PNC, Mr Emmanuel Wilson, said the party agreed with the position of the EC since the commission had no power to determine who was a Ghanaian and whose name should not be on the register.
The party’s General Secretary, Mr Atik Mohammed, also held a similar view, insisting that the interpretation given by a section of the public that voters who registered with NHIA cards’ names should be removed was exaggerated.