7 December 2012

Ghana: Biometric Verification Machine Breakdown Stalls Voting At Some Centres - but EC Says Voting Will Continue Beyond 5pm

Ghana has extended voting in its presidential election into a second day, officials said, after technical problems prevented thousands of people in ... ( Resource: Ghana Extends Voting After Technical Glitch

The electronic gadgets used to verify the biometric data of prospective voters in a number of centers have broken down, stalling the voting process in those polling stations. The verification machines which are being introduced for the first time in Ghana also failed to recognize some prospective voters at other centers though they presented Identification cards and also had their names on the register.

As part of efforts to enhance the credibility of the voting process, the Electoral Commission (EC) agreed to proposals from some political parties to have a biometric register and also introduce a verification machine. The political parties had also agreed with the EC on the rule of "No Verification, No Voting" implying that every voter would have to be verified biometrically before he or she is allowed to vote.

But the failure of the machines to function effectively at a number of centers is generating a lot of anxiety as voting has come to a halt in a number of polling stations while others whose identity could not be verified by the device have been disenfranchised. With just about an hour to the official end of voting, electorates who are yet to cast their votes are worried.

The report of the breakdown cuts across polling stations in Accra, Ashiamang in the Greater Accra region, Koforidua in the Eastern, Awutu Senya Constituency in the Central regions.

Some voters at Nsuta-Kwaman-Beposo Constituency and Montessori Polling Center-Cape Coast among other places whose identity could not be verified, reportedly washed their hands with water and coca cola after which the machine was able to verify their identity. Others however could still not be identified even after washing their hands with the soda drink.

The breakdown of the devices brings back similar challenges faced during the biometric registration exercise. But unlike the registration exercise which was held over a number of days, voting is a one day exercise.

However the Electoral Commission has in a statement assured the public that all prospective voters will be allowed to cast their votes even after the official closing time. "All eligible voters who are in queue before the close of polls at 5:00pm will be offered the opportunity to vote when the poll officially closes. The general public is entreated to be patient and allow the process to run smoothly", the statement said.

The introduction of the verification machine was met with a lot of controversy, as the General Secretary of the ruling National Democratic Congress and other leading members of the party vehemently opposed the idea of introducing the gadgets saying it could create problems for the voting process if they developed faults. However that position was dismissed by the opposition New Patriotic Party, who strongly supported the introduction of the devices arguing that it would ensure a credible voting process.

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