Using The Guarantor System In Voter Registration: The Factual And Legal Arguments
The point has been made by critics of the ongoing voter registration regime who argue strongly that it is problematic and legally untenable to allow a “registered voter” to vouch or guarantee for other eligible registrants to participate in the exercise.
Their contention is that there cannot be a registered voter properly so-called unless and until the Electoral Commission conducts a validation or exhibition exercise of the register in the aftermath of the registration and furnishes the political parties with copies of the final voter’s register. And so, they argue that merely going through the registration process and getting issued with a voter ID card does not make one a registered voter for various purposes, including vouching for other eligible Ghanaians.
I humbly invite you to come with me to look at the factual and legal arguments regarding the propriety of a “registered voter” vouching or guaranteeing for prospective registrants who are without any of the breeder documents (i.e. Ghana Card or passport) in order to entitle them to register in the ongoing EC’s mass registration exercise.
Once again, the point has been made that merely going through the registration process and being issued with a voters ID card doesn’t make one a registered voter. And that, unless and until the voter exhibition exercise is complete and the final register is certified and issued to the political parties, no one can call himself a registered voter.
And so, according to those belonging to this school of thought, it is legally untenable for any person who has been issued with a voters ID card merely by reason of him having gone through the registration process to guarantee for others since the purported guarantor is himself not a certified registered voter as yet.
Here is the response. First of all, on the factual ground, this arrangement has been the practice since the advent of the Fourth Republic. Persons who have gone through EC registration process and issued with voters ID cards have always been entitled to guarantee for other prospective registrants. They never had to wait for voter exhibition to be conducted. And indeed, records have it that for each of the registration exercises conducted in the country since 1992, more than 80% of the registered voters got their names on the electoral roll through the guarantor system. So, what the EC is doing now is certainly not novel.
On the legal argument, again, it is instructive to note that the guarantor system has since the beginning of the Fourth Republic, been provided for in all the Constitutional Instruments governing the registration of voters in the country. And of course, same has explicitly been provided for in C.I 126, the subsisting Constitutional Instrument for voter registration.
More importantly, the point must be made that in law, there’s something we call the “doctrine of presumption of regularity.” So, on the basis of this doctrine, so long as one is registered, he is presumed to have gone through a regular act and therefore, the law sees him as a legitimate registered voter until otherwise proven.
In other words, once a person has gone through the registration process and he is issued with a voters ID card, he is presumed to be a legitimate registered voter for all purposes including guaranteeing for other prospective registrants.
The person doesn’t have to wait until the exhibition exercise is undertaken and his name captured in the final register before he is entitled to guarantee for other eligible Ghanaians.
Also note that, because it is the law that permits an innocent third party to depend on this doctrine in presuming that a person who has gone through the registration process and issued with an ID Card is a legitimate registered voter, the same law protects the third party when this presumption turns out to be wrong.
So, what happens when it is eventually established that the presumed registered voter has some propriety deficit thereby defeating his competence to have served as a guarantor?
If the presumption later turns out to be wrong, and that, the person (guarantor) did not qualify to register in the first place, all the people (maximum of ten per C.I. 126) that he had guaranteed for are protected by the law except he himself (the guarantor). This is because equity does not suffer wrong without a remedy.
In the light of the foregoing, please be reminded that as much as you have a legal right to guarantee for at least 10 eligible Ghanaians who do not have any of the required documents, you alone will bear absolute responsibility for all propriety deficits surrounding your competence or otherwise to register as a voter as well as all propriety deficits surrounding the competence or otherwise of all the people you guaranteed for to register as voters. So, be guided accordingly.