UPDATE: Supreme Court dismisses use of old voter ID cards
The Supreme Court has in a unanimous decision excluded the use of the existing voter identification card as proof of eligibility for a new one in the upcoming voter registration exercise.
While agreeing with the National Democratic Congress, the plaintiff, that rights accrued to persons who hold the existing voter ID, the supreme court however, made it emphatically clear that “they must make themselves available and comply with Constitutional Instrument (CI 126)”, which requires applicants to use only the Ghanaian passport, the Ghana card or get two registered voters to vouch for their eligibility to acquire a new voter ID.
After a much-debated stance, the Supreme Court has cleared the way for the Electoral Commission to continue with its intended voter registration exercise, which the NDC and a private citizen, Mark Takyi-Banson challenged.
A seven-member panel presided over by Chief Justice, Anin Yeboah, issued the judgement ahead of the June 30 voter registration exercise.
The court, however, granted the NDC two reliefs.
b. 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 2nd Defendant to compile and review the voters’ register must be exercised subject to respect for and the protection of the right to vote;
c. A declaration 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.
However, a number reliefs both parties were seeking have been dismissed
d. 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 2nd Defendant to registered voters are valid for purposes of identifying such persons in the exercise of their right to vote;
e. A declaration 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 to apply for registration as a voter is unconstitutional, null and void and of no effect whatsoever;
f. A declaration that the 2nd Defendant, in purporting to exercise its powers pursuant to article 51 of the 1992 Constitution to exclude the existing voter identification cards from the documents required as of identification to enable a person register as a voter without any legal basis or justification is arbitrary, capricious and contrary to article 296 of the 1992 Constitution.
g. A declaration that upon a true and proper interpretation of the Constitution specifically Article 42 of the 1992 Constitution, proof of identification for registration as a voter should not be limited by the provisions of Public Elections (Registration of Voters)(Amendment) Regulations, 2020.
h. An order directed at the 2nd Defendant to include all existing voter identification cards duly issued by the 2nd Defendant as one of the documents serving as proof of identification for registration as a voter for the purposes of public elections.
The court gave the EC directed the EC to go ahead with the registration subject to the use of CI 126, which will govern election 2020.
Highlight of the court’s decision
Chronology of events
NDC goes to court
The NDC initially on March 20 initially went to court to challenge the EC’s decision to compile a new register.
NDC abandons part of its case
On June 11, the NDC abandoned its legal case challenging the constitutional mandate of the EC in compiling a new register.
Lawyer for the NDC, Mr Godwin Tamakloe, abandoned the NDCs legal challenge on its two legal arguments.
The NDC’s suit at the Supreme Court is based on two premises – first, that the attempt by the EC to compile a new registration exercise was unconstitutional and second that the decision of the EC to exclude an existing voter ID as a form of identification for the exercise was also unconstitutional.
That was after the court told counsel that per the rules of court, a party cannot be seeking a relief and also asked to be granted another relief in the alternative.
Counsel took a cue from the bench and abandoned the relief that had to do with the EC’s decision to conduct the registration exercise and subsequently abandoned its legal case.
Fresh case hits EC
But on June 12, a private citizen sent back to the court, the NDC’s abandoned case.
A private citizen, Mark Takyi-Banson, wanted the Supreme Court to properly interpret Article 45(a) of the 1992 constitution which gives the EC the power to compile a voter’s register.
It states: the Electoral Commission shall have the power to “(a) compile the register of voters and revise it at such periods as may be determined by law”
But that first leg of their case was dropped in court during a hearing on Thursday, June 11.
The second leg of the NDC’s case which is now the focus in court is that the EC’s decision to exclude the use of the old voter ID cards in the new voter registration exercise is illegal.
EC justifies exclusion
Two days later, the EC provided the legal justification the court asked for as to why it wanted to exclude the existing voter ID card from the registration process.
The Chairperson of the Electoral Commission, Jean Mensah, said the compilation of a new voters’ register would prevent the manipulation of the 2020 polls.
The new register, she believed, would ensure a credible general election on December 7.
She said the EC’s decision was in the interest of all political parties and that it was committed to delivering incident-free and peaceful elections.
“A bloat in our register could have dire consequences for any election and as a people, we should go to an election with a mindset that it has to be credible,” the EC boss said.
The Supreme Court has in a unanimous decision merged the two cases against the EC’s voters’ registration exercise.
The Court has also indefinitely adjourned its judgement in the case filed by the NDC which was slated for June 23.
Deputy Attorney General, Godfred Yeboah Dame, in an application urged the Supreme Court to merge the new case filed against the Electoral Commission with the other case which was due for judgement on June 23.
On June 24, the Supreme Court dismissed attempts of the IMANI Africa and 17 other civil society organisation to join the case as friends of the court to provide further information on the legal tussle between the NDC and the EC.
IMANI had filed an Amicus Curiae not to be a party to the case, but to assist the Supreme Court through offering information, expertise or insight that has a bearing on the issues in the case.
The Supreme Court unanimously tossed out the IMANI brief, which it said had no place in law.