The Supreme Court of Ghana has decided that the existing voter ID card and birth certificates cannot be used as proof of identity to register in the upcoming voter registration exercise.
This judgement effectively throws out the challenge by the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and a private citizen, Mark Takyi-Banson, who were before the Court questioning the Electoral Commission’s (EC) decision to compile an entirely new register and exclude the existing voter ID.
The Court, however, agrees with the NDC that the right to vote, once conferred on a person, cannot be diminished.
By its decision, the Supreme Court has also halted all actions pending against the EC on the voter registration in any Court.
This will affect the Ashaiman Member of Parliament, Ernest Norgbey, who filed an action at the High Court questioning the power of the EC to compile a new register.
The Court was constituted with Chief Justice Kwasi Anin-Yeboah as President, Justice Jones Dotse, Justice Paul Baffoe Bonnie, Justice Sule Gbadegbe, Justice Samuel Marful-Sau, Justice Nene Amegatcher and Justice Ashie Kotey.
The parties involved in the suit were sharply divided over the Court’s direction.
The Court upon dismissing some of the reliefs sought by the NDC and Mark Takyi-Banson directed the EC to go ahead with the voter registration exercise as scheduled.
The Court also said the registration should be conducted in line with the Public Elections (Registration of Voters) Regulations 2012, C.I. 91 as amended as the newly passed Public Elections (Registration of Voters) Regulations, 2020 C.I. 126.
This however left the parties involved divided over whether the Court upheld the use of the existing voter ID card as proof of identity for the purposes of registration or not.
The NDC’s General Secretary, Johnson Asiedu Nketia, said his side was “most grateful” after the judgement and proclaimed that “we feel vindicated.”
How we got here
On June 9, Parliament voted to allow the EC to use the Ghana Card and Passports as the only forms of identification for persons registering to vote after relevant Constitutional Instrument had matured.
The EC presented the Public Election (Amendment) Regulation, 2020 (C.I. 126) to Parliament to amend C.I. 91 in order to change the current identification requirements.
But the NDC felt this amendment would lead to many Ghanaians being disenfranchised.
The EC, however, submitted its legal justification for the amendment and described the old voter ID as “a fruit from a poisoned tree” because it was a breach of Article 42 of the constitution, which defines who is qualified to register to vote.
The Commission cited the court’s judgement in the Abu Ramadan case, where it indicated that the use of the National Health Insurance Card to register a voter is inconsistent with Article 42 of the constitution and therefore void