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Ghana Electoral Commission proposes facial biometrics as part of voter register changes



The Electoral Commission (EC) of Ghana is changing the biometric voter registration process for the 2020 elections, adding facial recognition for voter verification to deal with the large number of people unable to be verified with fingerprint biometrics, Business Ghana reports.

EC Deputy Chairperson in Charge of Operations Samuel Tettey said manual verification has been used for the high number of voters unable to authenticate their fingerprints on the biometric verification devices used by the commission. EC Deputy Chairman in charge of Public Affairs Dr. Eric Bossman-Asare noted that the devices were purchased in 2012, and emphasized that acquiring new equipment would ensure the credibility of the election.

A district-level election has been carried out with the deployment of 58,000 biometric verification devices by the EC, Myjoyonline.com reports, including some to function as backups in case of malfunction. Tettey says 159,000 electoral officers were trained for the district election.

The ECs plans are facing criticism, however.

The Chamber for Local Governance (ChaLoG) described the ECs plan as “untenable,” according to a separate report by Business Ghana, saying the register used in 2012 and 2016 general elections, district elections and a referendum could not suddenly become obsolete.

“The Chamber is of firm belief and conviction demand for compilation of a new biometric voters’ register by EC is not sincere, has for past seven years used current biometric voters’ register to conduct the 2012 elections, 2015 district level elections, 2016 elections and 2018 referendum to create six new regions,” the group wrote in a statement to the Commission.

“This same ‘defective and non-credible biometric voters’ register is to be used for conduct of December 17 district level elections and would have also been used for referendum to amend Article 55 (3) if the Bill were not to have been withdrawn by the president on December 1, 2019.”

ChaLoG says it is “unthinkable and unconstitutional” for the EC to declare the biometric register non-credible and still use it for the district elections.

Lawmaker Gabby Otchere-Darko of the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) says he is concerned that the EC has not yet chosen the entity or technology it will use in the next election, according to GhanaWeb.

“I do not know details of the EC procurement processes and current happenings at the commission but, as a “veteran” campaigner for electoral reforms over the years, I was worried to hear with less than 12 months to next general election EC is yet to decide on a new entity and technology to introduce new biometric data system for next polls,” he says.

The acting Director of Communications for the EC, Sylvia Annoh responded that “the commission believes in dialogue and acquisition of new biometric system will enable us deliver free, fair, credible and transparent elections since we operate open-door policy and any political party having issues on any of our projects should come forward and dialogue with commission.”

GhanaWeb reports that the EC proposed purchasing new technology to collate its biometric citizen data at an Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC) meeting, which five political parties walked out of, saying the move is unnecessary and will disenfranchise many people.

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