Sunday, June 9, 2013
Afari-Gyan admits double registration abroad (May 7, 2013)
The Chairman of the Electoral Commission (EC), Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, on June 6, 2013 admitted at the Supreme Court that there had been double registration of some Ghanaians abroad during the registration exercise for the 2012 general election.
He, however, indicated that the biometric verification system could not make it possible for such persons to vote twice.
Answering questions under cross-examination from Mr Philip Addison, the lead counsel for the petitioners challenging the legitimacy of President John Dramani Mahama, Dr Afari-Gyan nonetheless conceded that there was the possibility of proxy voters voting twice, especially in the instances when double registration occurred and the affected persons nominated different persons to vote on their behalf.
Mr Afar-Gyan said there were many similar instances of double registration but refuted allegations that the national voters register was bloated with double registration.
He further explained that after checks, the EC eliminated 8,000 instances of double registration from the national voters register.
Dr Afari-Gyan denied an assertion by Mr Addison that the EC had deliberately discriminated against a section of Ghanaians by not registering them abroad.
He confirmed that five persons had, indeed, undertaken double registration when he was shown a list of 50 instances of double registration which occurred abroad.
Mr Addison had indicated that his side had been able to detect 51 instances of double registration of persons captured abroad, but Dr Afari-Gyan replied that the EC detected 15 instances and later explained that in one of those instances, the persons involved were twins.
Counsel then took him through the list and succeeded in making Dr Afari-Gyan admit that there had been instances of double registration abroad.
In all the five instances shown Dr Afari-Gyan, the registered voters had the same name, age, sex, location, polling stations but different voter identification numbers.
According to Mr Addison, the list was generated from the list of 705 foreign registered voters given to the NPP by the EC.
Dr Afari-Gyan was then taken through five of the names but the presiding judge, Mr Justice William Atuguba, advised counsel to give a composite list to the witness to go through while the court went on break.
Mr Addison obliged.
The EC boss later admitted that there was over-voting on a pink sheet from the P/B Kwabena Akura polling station in the Ashanti Region.
Twelve people were said to have been captured on the polling station’s register, with 12 votes cast and one rejected ballot, thereby making the number of ballots in the ballot box 13.
He had earlier denied suggestions from counsel that there was automatic over-voting at that polling station on the grounds that it was important to subject a pink sheet to close scrutiny, compare ballots cast to the total number of registered voters at a particular polling station before arriving at a decision.
Although Dr Afari-Gyan had maintained in his earlier submissions to the court that he would not rely on the pink sheets as his primary source to make a definite decision on over-voting, he admitted during cross-examination that on the face of that pink sheet, he would consider over-voting to mean the total number of ballots cast exceeding the total number of ballots issued.
He also stated that very serious mistakes could be made during the recording of figures at polling stations and explained that that amounted to one of the reasons he usually made reference to the register before arriving at a decision.
Be Candid to Court
One of the panel members, Mr Justice Paul Baffoe-Bonnie, advised Mr Addison to be candid to the court in order to help it arrive at the truth when Mr Addison stated that a pink sheet from the Temporary Booth Polling Station at Jinpenhi had 250, not 25, ballots issued to that polling station.
Counsel had sought to cross-examine Dr Afari-Gyan on the said 250 but Mr Justice Baffoe-Bonnie noticed the actual figure and directed counsel to be candid in his cross-examination.
Mr Addison, nonetheless, explained to the court that he had sought to put it to Dr Afari-Gyan that he had exceeded the 10 per cent extra ballot paper allocation due to the Temporary Booth polling station by 250 per cent.
Dr Afari-Gyan informed the court that he could not tell the number of ballot papers issued to polling stations, although the quota was to be in excess of 10 per cent.
Presidential and Parliamentary Register
Dr Afari-Gyan said he made reference to 14,031,680 as the total number of voters on the voters register before making his declaration on December 9, 2012 and admitted he had initially used 14,158,890 in error.
Counsel then suggested to him he then used everything in error, but the EC boss denied that suggestion and further denied an assertion from counsel that he had based his declaration on exaggeration.
Issue on Voters Register
The petitioners, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo; his running mate, Dr Mahamadu Bawumia, and the Chairman of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), are claiming that the EC furnished the NPP with 14,031,680 as the total number of registered voters in the country.
The EC, according to the petitioners, on December 9, 2012 declared the number of registered voters as 14,158,890 and subsequently posted on its website the number of registered voters as 14,031,793, thereby showing a clear discrepancy of 127,097.
According to the petitioners, the EC also failed to furnish the NPP with a provisional voters register for each polling station, in breach of Regulation 21 (2) of the Public Elections (Registration of Voters) Regulation 2012 (CI 72), thereby disabling the petitioners and their party from effectively verifying the names on the list to ascertain their authenticity.
Mr Addison told Dr Afari-Gyan that the General Secretary of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Mr Johnson Asiedu Nketia, had informed the court during his testimony that the final voters register was 14,031,793.
Dr Afari-Gyan admitted the EC gave that list to the political parties, but indicated that the figure 14,031,793 was in error, adding that the final register totalled 14,031,680.
Asked if he took part in the preparation of pleadings before the court, Dr Afari-Gyan answered in the affirmative.
Counsel then asked him if he knew the EC gave a provisional figure of 13,917,366, to which Dr Afari-Gyan answered, “If the EC gave that figure, then it must be correct.”
Mr Addison then suggested to the witness that there was a difference of 241,000 voters between the provisional figure and the final figure of 14,158,890 after the EC had registered foreign workers and their families, students on scholarship abroad and peacekeepers who had returned home from duties.
In answer, the EC boss said he did not know who the 241,000 was being attributed to but added that the figure did not refer to foreign registration alone.
According to him, that figure was data in the database of the EC but Mr Addison insisted and asked him if the figure was correct, to which Dr Afari-Gyan answered, “Yes, if your computation is right.”
Dr Afari-Gyan denied assertions that the number captured in the registration of foreign workers and their families added up to 2,183 and insisted it was 705.
He explained that the registration of security officials returning from peacekeeping duties increased the figure to 2,178.
Paramount Chief and C3 Controversy
Dr Afari-Gyan had, during cross-examination on June 5, 2013, made an analogy that it would not be prudent for a returning officer to stop a paramount chief from casting a ballot because a biometric verification machine could not pick the fingers of that chief.
Following from that, Mr Addison then requested him to tell the court which part of the pink sheet the chief’s record should be picked as having cast his ballot.
Dr Afari-Gyan said, “It will be recorded on the pink sheet as an individual and among the people who have voted.”
Mr Addison insisted and demanded where exactly on the pink sheet that information would be entered and consequently handed over a pink sheet to Dr Afari-Gyan to indicate.
After studying the pink sheet, Dr Afari-Gyan said he would put it under Section C1 which demands information on the total number of ballots issued to voters on the polling station register.
Dissatisfied with Dr Afari-Gyan’s answer, Mr Addison insisted that the information would be entered in Section C3 of the pink sheet because the Omanhene had not been verified by the biometric verification device (BVD).
Dr Afari-Gyan replied, “He would have gone through part of the BVD machine.”
He also informed the court that although daily printouts of the voters register were given to representatives of the political parties during the registration exercise, that could not always be the case, especially when the machine broke down.
Mr Addison then moved in and asked Dr Afari-Gyan if the EC had copies of the register given to the political parties daily, but Mr Justice Atuguba intervened and urged Mr Addison not to press the witness “beyond factual possibilities” because that would amount to “oppression”.
BVD Not Connected/Money not enough
Dr Afari-Gyan said the 33,500 BVDs were not networked but indicated that they had unique numbers for identification.
He indicated that the EC had received complaints of freezing of biometric machines on voting day and explained that new machines were sent to the affected areas.
Asked why the EC did not buy enough back-up BVD machines, Dr Afari-Gyan said the EC was provided with GH¢236 million for the election, which was not sufficient.
He also stated that he did not know the technical aspect of the BVD when he was asked if he knew what the self test mode aspect of the BVDs meant.
Deletion of Information
When Mr Addison asked Dr Afari-Gyan if he knew information on the machine could be deleted, Mr Quashie-Idun shot to his feet and reminded counsel that the EC had not been accused of any such thing for that question to be posed.
Counsel for the respondents expressed concern over exhibit numbers not matching with polling stations and indicated that exhibit numbers of five pink sheets used by the petitioners to cross-examine Mr Asiedu Nketia did not match the exhibit numbers on the pink sheets in their custody.
Mr Tony Lithur spoke on behalf of President Mahama, while Mr Tsatsu Tsikata expressed the concern on behalf of the NDC and even went ahead to insinuate that pink sheets had been compromised at the Supreme Court Registry.
Mr Addison described Mr Tsikata’s insinuation as nothing but a red herring and said it was unfortunate for anyone to insinuate that the petitioners had brought something from Mars.
He indicated that the petitioners had, from the onset, raised issues with regard to the labelling, but Mr Tsikata reminded him that that issue came up during the cross- examination of Dr Bawumia.
Hearing continues on Monday, June 10, 2013.