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Exclusion of voter’s ID card in upcoming registration exercise: Supreme Court demands legal basis from EC

The Supreme Court yesterday ordered the Electoral Commission (EC) to provide the legal basis for excluding the existing voter’s identification card as a form of identification in the upcoming voters’ registration exercise later this month.

A seven-member panel of the court presided over by the Chief Justice, Justice AninYeboah asked the EC, the second defendant to file its legal arguments by Monday, June 8, 2020.

On March 26, 2020, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) dragged the Attorney-General and the EC to the apex court over the decision by the Commission to compile a new voters’ register for the December 7, 2020 polls.

The EC had stated that it would compile a fresh electoral roll for the Presidential and Parliamentary elections because the existing register was incurably defective for purpose.

But the NDC, the biggest opposition political party in Ghana insisted that the exclusion of existing voters’ ID card as a form of identification to obtain a new voters’ ID card was unconstitutional.

In its writ which seeks to invoke the original jurisdiction of the SC, the plaintiffs asked the defendants to declare that upon a true and proper interpretation of Article 45(a) of the 1992 Constitution, the EC has the constitutional power to, and can, compile a register of voters only once, and thereafter revise it periodically, as may be determined by law.

 The plaintiff urged the court to order the EC to include all existing voter identification cards duly issued by the EC as one of the documents serving as proof of identification for registration as a voter for the purposes of public elections. 

The writ, filed by counsel for the NDC, Mr Godwin Kudzo Tamakloe further asked the SC for a declaration that upon a true and proper interpretation of the provisions of the Constitution, specifically article 51 read conjointly with Article 42 of the Constitution, the power of the EC to compile and review the voters’ register must be exercised subject to respect for and the protection of the right to vote.The party wants the court to hold that, upon a true and proper interpretation of the provisions of the Constitution, particularly Article 42, upon the registration of and issuance of a voter identification card to a person, that person has an accrued right to vote which cannot be divested in an arbitrary and capricious manner.

A declaration that upon a true and proper interpretation of the provisions of the Constitution, particularly Article 42 of the Constitution, all existing voter identification cards duly issued by the EC to registered voters is valid for purposes of identifying such persons in the exercise of their right to vote.

It urged the court to declare that upon a true and proper interpretation of the Constitution, specifically Article 42, the 2nd Defendant’s  purported amendment of Regulation 1 sub-regulation 3 of the  Public Elections (Registration of Voters) Regulations, 2016 (C.I 91) through the Public Elections (Registration of Voters)(Amendment) Regulations, 2020 to exclude existing voter identification cards as proof of identification to enable a person apply for registration as a voter is unconstitutional, null and void and of no effect whatsoever.

Meanwhile, the A-G in its response filed by Mr GodfredYeboah Dame, a Deputy A-G stated that the reliefs endorsed on the plaintiff’s writ of summons are not only procedurally incompetent, but also not cognisable as reliefs that may properly be applied for pursuant “to this Court’s original jurisdiction under articles 2(1) and 130(1) of the Constitution, and therefore ought to be struck out.

The defendant contended that the instant action neither raises any real issue(s) for constitutional interpretation nor properly invokes the enforcement jurisdiction of the court.

“Further, we find support in the prohibition contained in the rules of this Court for a relief pursuant to this Court’s original jurisdiction, to be nebulous and argumentative.”

The defendant argued that that the first palpable absurdity with the plaintiff’s difficult endeavour to raise a strained constitutional issue “in this matter is the plaintiff’s proposition that the words “….at such periods as may be determined by law” in Article 45(a) apply to only the revision of the voters register, and not its compilation.”

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