5 December 2012

Ghana: Security Vote in Confusion

There was confusion all over the country when the special voting exercise for the security services began at selected voting centres in all the regional capitals of the country. The exercise was characterised with missing names, long delays and outright disappointments.

In some cases, the biometric details of potential voters were missing, in spite of their names being accurately recorded in the register. A number of security personnel, who are required to police the poll when Ghanaians cast their votes on Friday, left the various centres crest-fallen and hugely disappointed.

Many on the security officers were wondering what would happen on Friday, when the large mass of the people go to the polls to vote.

The Electoral Commission will meet the media, and the expectations are that Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, Chairman of the Commission, would offer a way out of the mess created.

Observers believe unless something drastic was done before the Friday vote, confusion would make its masterpiece throughout the 26,000 polling booths in the country.

Kumasi

From Kumasi, Issah Alhassan reports that voting in the Ashanti Region, like other regions across the country, was characterised with reports of inconveniences, including missing names from the register, and delays in the commencement of the process.

Several security officers complained that they were denied the opportunity to exercise their franchise, because they could not trace their names in the voters' register.

Looking sullen and morose, some of the security personnel were compelled to leave the voting grounds after several attempts to cast their ballots proved futile.

In places likethe Central Police Command, Police Depot at Patasi, Suame Methodist, Manhyia South and Oforikrom, where The Chronicle visited, several security personnel lamented about their inability to exercise their franchise, because their names were not in the register.

At the Central Police Command polling station numbers 771-A and 769-B, the security personnel arrived at the centers as early as 6:00 a.m. in their bid to cast their votes and leave for post, only for some of them to be turned away.

They could not hide their displeasure at the unfortunate development, considering the fact that some of them came from far away to cast their ballots.

One police officer, who pleaded anonymity, said he was stationed in Sunyani, but had been posted to Atebubu for special duty.But he could not find his name there, and had to be directed to Oforikrom to cast his ballot.

However, when he arrived at Oforikrom, he was toldthat he had to go to the Central Police Command. When he arrived there too, he could not find his name in the register.

"Just this morning, I spent almost GH¢40 cedis on transport from Sunyani to Atebubu, and then to Kumasi, but I still wasn't able to vote," he lamented.

A close source also told The Chronicle that a senior police officer in charge of one of the units in the command, who also reportedly mobilised his men and women to participate in the voting exercise, found,to his chagrin, that his name was missing from the register.

Ho

From Ho,Samuel Agbewodereports that the special voting exercise in the Ho Municipality ran into serious problems. Some of the security officers said itwas an embrassement to them, because they did not anticipate the difficulties that were experienced in the special voting designated for the security personnel in the Volta Region.

The disappointed personnel blamed the EC for the mess, bydescribing the exercise as a shame to the Republic of Ghana. By 1:17 p.m., there were long queues at the regional offices of the EC in Ho, without any indication of when the exercise would end.

The Volta Regional Director of the EC, Madam Laurentia Kpatakpa,jumped to the defence of her outfit, stressingthat those who did not register in the Ho Central Constituency would not be able to vote in the constituency, because the biometric voting machine would not capture those people.

Madam Kpatakpa explained that earlier, the EC had held a special meeting with all the security heads in the Volta Region, where they were educated on the need to inform their personnel to transfer their votes to their various stations to enable them to participate in the special voting.

The Volta Regional Director of the EC rather put the blame on the security heads for not performing their duty of educating their personnel to transfer their votes to the constituencies where they work, and stressed that the officials of the EC could not do anything about those who could not cast their votes.

Madam Kpatakpa said some of the security personnel's inability to cast their votes was not experienced in the Ho Central Constituency alone, but similar problems were experienced in other districts in the Volta Region.

She said that out of 1,091 security personnel who registered to cast their votes at the EC office, only 360 had cast their votes as at 1:49 p.m.

Koforidua

In Koforidua, Isaac Akwetey-Okunorreports that two security officers, made up of a police and an immigration officer, who are participating in the special voting in the Eastern Region,have threatened to drag the Electoral Commission (EC) to court for disfranchising them.

The name of one officer could not be traced in the voters register, while the other's fingerprint was not captured by the biometric machine.

Further checks by this reporter at the Regional Electoral Commission office revealed that the police officer duly registered in Ho, but transferred his to Koforidua after the registration exercise.

He did not, however, have the opportunity to transfer his vote to his present station, hence the failure to participate in the crucial voting exercise.

The immigration officer, on the other hand, could not participate because the machine could not capture his fingerprints after several attempts, in spite of washing his hands with soap and the use of other lotions.

The two, who granted interviews with the paper, insisted that they should have been allowed to vote, since their participation was important in the determination of the next President of Ghana.

They have, therefore, called on the EC to map-out strategies to ensure that the situation would not occur again.

In spite of the few pocketsof initial confusion over how voting was supposed to be done, that greeted other designated polling stations in the region, voting was orderly.

A total of 1,817 personnel were expected to participate in the exercise within two polling stations, including Galloway and Effiduase, meanwhile, the vote would not be tallied today.

Tamale

From Tamale, Edmond Gyebi reports that some security personnel who are expected to provide essential services at the various polling centres in the Northern Region on Friday, have been disenfranchised in the Special Voting Exercise.

A visit by The Chronicle to some of the polling centres revealed that majority of the personnel could not find their names in the voters register, and as a result, they were refused by the Electoral Commission officials to exercise their franchise.

At the Tamale Jubilee Park in the Tamale Central Constituency, a total of 639 voters registered to vote, but there were several complaints and confrontations between some disappointed voters and the EC officials.

The officers could not trace their names in the voters register. Even though the EC officials could not give specific figures, they admitted that the figure could be huge.

At the Kamina Barracks polling station, a total of 394 voters had registered, but as high as 274 voters, including the Commanding Officer of the Ghana Armed Forces, Lt Col James Nana Hagan, and one Sergeant Tetteh Mensah, a Senior Officer at the Military Police unit of the Ghana Armed Forces, could not find their names in the register.

The sudden disappearance of the names createdconfusion and misunderstandings at the polling stations. The affected officers were at a loss as to how they could not trace their names in the register.

They were also confused as to where and how to get the problem rectified before they were deployed to their various polling centres on Election Day.

The Presiding Officer at the Tamale Jubilee Park polling centre, Mr. Musah Muniru, complained that even though adequate voting materials had been supplied for the exercise, the frequent confrontations by the disenfranchised voters was delaying the process.

As at 10:38a.m., when The Chroniclevisited the centre, only 71 people had voted out of the 639 registered voters. The Northern Regional Director of the Electoral Commission, Sylvester Kanyi, told a section of the media that a special message had been sent to the Chairman of the Electoral Commission, Dr. Kwadwo Afari Gyan,in Accra, about the missing names for immediate rectification.

He assured those who were disenfranchised that they would have the opportunity to vote earlyon Friday, before leaving for their respective polling stations, or they would be posted to polling centres near to where they vote.

Sunyani

The special voting took place smoothly in most parts of the Brong-Ahafo Region, however, the issue of some eligible voters having their names omitted from the Electoral Commission's (EC) list was numerous, reports Michael Boateng from Sunyani.

Immigration officers in Sunyani and Sampa in Jaman North were the worst affected, as some names were not available. Some of the affected officers who spoke to The Chronicle did not understand why their names were missing from the list, because they did register for the special voting.

When contacted, a staff officer of the Sunyani Immigration Service, Noble Dzokoto, said the list of officers qualified to participate in the special voting was duly sent to the headquarters of the Immigration Service in Accra.

He could, however, not tell whether the missing names were the fault of those who handled the list at the headquarters, or it was the mistake from the EC.

The Sunyani Electoral Officer, Mr. Yaw Opoku, said the list of the Sunyani Immigration officers did not pass through his office, and that there was nothing he could do, unless a directive comes from the national office of the EC.

Five police personnel were also not allowed to cast their votes in Goaso, because their names were not on the list of special voters. They were asked to go to Kenyasi to check their names. The affected officers told this reporter that they would do everything legally possible to ensure that they cast their votes.

Two officers of the Ghana Fire Service in Goaso were also at loss as to why their names were omitted from the list. Their concern was that they would be on duty on Friday, December 7, but since they were unable to cast their vote as part of the special voting, they doubted if they could get the chance to exercise their right to choose a leader for this country.

Tema

In Tema, Richard Attenkah reports thatabout 335 security personnel, who turned up at the three voting centers designated for the special voting within the three constituencies in the Tema metropolis, could not be cleared by the verification machine to enable them cast their votes.

This, according to the presiding officers who manned the various centers, degenerated into misunderstandings, but were later resolved through dialogue.

That notwithstanding, the three voting centers, which include the Community One Police Station, Community Two Police Station and Community Four Police Station in Tema East, Tema West and Tema Central respectively, recorded a high voter turn-out, according to statistics available to the paper.

At the Community One Police Station where 570 voters were expected to cast their votes, 353 persons had already exercised their franchise when the paper visited there for the second time, at about 12:43 p.m.

One hundred and seven persons, however, were not allowed to cast their votes, because the verification machine did not clear them.

Mr. Eric Opei-Kumi, presiding officer at the center, who is also the returning officer for the Tema East constituency, told this reporter that the verification system prevented some people from voting, as the process is very fast and efficient.

As at 1:07p.m. when this reporter arrived at the Community Four Police Station, 290 people had cast their votes. One hundred and forty five persons could, however, not vote, because they could not find their names in the 533-voter-list.

Mr. Delanyo Dickson Klu, presiding officer for the center who is also the returning officer for the Tema Central constituency, said the process was fast. He, however, added that some of the voters, who did not understand why their names could not be found on the register, left the center very angry.

At the Community Two Police Station there was a long winding queue, but before this reporter left the center after 20 minutes, the queue had reduced drastically. Mr. Ebo Sey, presiding officer for the center, told this reporter that the voters list contained 720 names.

At the time of leaving the center at about 2:15 p.m., 380 persons had cast their votes, and 83 voters were turned away, because their names were not found on the list.

The three presiding officers assured all those who could not cast their votes that they should not be despaired, as they could still cast their votes on Friday, when the whole nation goes to the polls.

According to them, the anomaly could be two fold - either presenting wrong information about themselves for the special voting, or it could also be that there was a data entry error when it was being captured.

In all, voting at the three centers was peaceful and non-violent, as none of the voters complained about any act of violence.

Bolgatanga

From Bolgatanga, William N-lanjerborr Jalilah reports that after hours of queuing to take part in special voting on Tuesday, about 80 security personnel were disenfranchised in the Upper East Region.

The Regional Police Commander, DCOP Bright Oduro, told this reporter that over 60 personnel were affected at the Regional House of Chiefs polling station in the Bolgatanga Central constituency, while a number of them in other constituencies in the region could not cast their votes, because their names could not be found in the special voters register.

At the Catholic Social Centre Polling Station, in the newly-created Bolgatanga East Constituency, all the personnel from the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority stationed at Zuarungu, could not find their names in the register.

The Police Commander explained that most of the affected personnel were those who had just been recruited and were undertaking their training in the region at the time of the biometric registration exercise.

He said though they registered in the region, their names could not be traced in the special voters register, but said he was convinced that their names were in the main register.

According to DCOP Oduro, his administration immediately compiled the names of the affected personnel and submitted it to the regional officer of the Electoral Commission to enable the personnel cast their votes on Friday.

He gave the assurance that if the EC rectified the anomaly, the police administration would make provision for the affected personnel to vote on Friday, December 7.

Touching on security arrangements, DCOP Oduro revealed that a total of about 1,600 personnel would be deployed on the day of voting. He said 438 flashpoints had been identified, and arrangements made to make the process violent-free.

There are also 706 non-flashpoints in the region. There would also be special patrol teams across the region.

The Upper East Regional Director of the Electoral Commission, Mr. Bruce Ayisi, indicated that all was not lost, because some names that did not appear on the Special Voters Register could appear in the main National Biometric Register, thus the possibility of the affected personnel voting on Friday.

Takoradi

Alfred Adams also reports from Takoradi that the much-talked about special voting for the security personnel came on yesterday, but not without problems. As early as 7:00 a.m., the EC officials had set up their devices for the exercise, and security personnel had also lined up for the exercise.

The centres were St. Anthony of Padua JHS at Kwesimintsim, Effiakuma Christ the King, Takoradi and Sekondi police stations. Majority of the security personnel could not cast their votes, because their names were not in the register.

Accra

Thousands of security personnel from the various security agencies are likely to miss the boat in exercising their franchise come Friday December 7, 2012, when the country goes to the polls to elect a President and members of parliament for the next four years, reports Stephen Odoi-Larbi and Dora Akyaa Asare in Accra.

More than a hundred security personnel were prevented from voting at three polling stations visited by the paper during the special voting exercise, in which personnel from the Electoral Commission, the Prisons Service, Police Service, Immigration Service, the Armed Forces, National Security and some other personnel likely to be involved in the electoral process on December 7.

The polling stations include Okaikoi Central, held at Tesano Police Station, Okaikoi South (A and B) and Achimota Police Station.

The personnel had either their names missing from the special voting list at one polling station, or transferred to another polling station within the same constituency, even though they applied for the special voting.

Othersecurity personnel, especially those who were under training and had registered at their various training camps, had the shock of their lives when they were turned away, because their names were neither on the special voting list nor voters' register.

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