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Biometric Registration and Crazy Queues

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Vicky Wireko Biometric Registration and Crazy Queues

We have come to the end of the first ten days of the biometric registration for some electoral areas. Others are now beginning to go through the process. Are there any lessons to be carried over?

I managed to acquire my new voter’s card last Tuesday but only after queuing for three good hours. The eagerness to want to exercise my franchise come December 7 cost me aching feet. It really is a torment standing in the never ending queues.

I got myself psyched up psychologically and emotionally that Tuesday morning to get my registration over and done with that day. Even though the spirit was willing, the body felt weak. I was dejected at some point. I thought the queue was agonizing and after one hour of no significant shift in the line, I felt like giving up.

Indeed, what really kept me going, curious as I am, were three things. You could not help listening in to the interesting conversations that people were engaged in. Boy, some people can talk unmindful of where they find themselves. The jokes here and there were hilarious. As for the brawl and voice raisings that I witnessed, they became anti-climax for me. They livened up the centre making the registration officials pack up threatening to leave.

I have driven around different parts of Accra in the past ten days. I am yet to encounter a registration centre where there were shorter queues. Some researcher should quantify for us the number of productive hours lost at the end of the entire process.

Over the week-end, as we travelled to and from Kumasi by road, apart from a few villages that we drove past, the characteristics of long lines of eligible voters undergoing the registration process were all over. I formed the conclusion that simplification is not part of our life.

One thing has encouraged me though. That there is genuine enthusiasm in the politics of the day and the Ghanaian is ready once again to go and exercise his or her right to select who should represent them in parliament and also as head of state. The positive frame of mind is good but we can make life a little easier to encourage more such attitudes.

I cannot imagine how, in those countries where the electorate have better opportunities in terms of the provision of facilities such as water, electricity, schools, health care, good roads, good salaries, enhanced environments, better pensions and welfare systems in place, anyone would leave their jobs to go and queue for a couple of hours or more simply to get a voter’s card. The authorities would rather do the checks to ensure that such a system would not inconvenience the eligible voter and of course minimizing productivity for the nation would have been factored in the process.

With us, who cares? Even with all the unfulfilled promises year after year by our politicians, we are ready to line up in the sun and stand on our feet for hours to acquire a voter’s card to vote for them again. I believe the service providers could have made life a lot simpler for us. The process they are selling to our Electoral Commission would not have been signed off elsewhere taking into account all the needless inconveniences to the people.

Our problem is also compounded by the caliber of personnel on hand handling the registration. At the first point of the process where some personal data is taken, even with my old identification card in front of the official, I had to go over my surname by spelling it twice, the second time I had to use symbolic alphabets to minimize any confusion.

With my mother’s name, I went through the same process and had to explain that Afua and Efua were not interchangeable. The waiting time got extended also because some people did not know their house addresses but do you blame them? It is not a practiced culture here.

Whoever designed the collection of data for the biometric registration should have tailor-made it to suit our environment. House addresses are non-existent even in the cities. And in places where kiosks, metal containers and uncompleted buildings are serving as homes, what kind of address are the officials going to get from the inhabitants? The question arising from here is whether accurate data is indeed vital or is it a matter of filling spaces because provisions have been made on the forms available?

Elsewhere where the culture of house addresses has been a part of them, they have become a necessary detail when it comes to such important data collection. In those places, the minute a house number and street name are keyed in for any exercise of such nature, the town and the post code immediately pos up. If a wrong address is given, it would show instantly.

One other thing that puzzled me in the registration process is why our data is being captured twice, the second time being at the point of taking finger prints and one’s picture? Why is the machine not scanning the information previously given, I wondered?

The picture taking session is another waste of time. In my case, the picture point had to be changed three times because they were capturing dark pictures which did not show the clear faces of the prospective voter.

Finally when I sighed deeply as a sign of relief because the process was coming to an end, I got highly disappointed with the end result, the laminated voter’s card. It is so far the most sub-standard identification card issued us in this country both recent and in the past. It is very light compared even to the previous voter IDs, the recently issued national identification card, the driver’s license and the national health insurance card. We have been told this biometric system is costing the tax payer, over $200 million. A whooping sum, but how long will this expensive voter ID last us for?

As we begin another ten days of biometric registration in some polling centres, we do hope that the delays that characterized the first ten days of the registration exercise were adequately captured for an improvement on what transpired in the first ten days of registration.

The process should be more encouraging for people to go and register and not put them off. Let us introduce innovations that will speed up the process. Can we have separate queues for those 60 years and above, for those 40 to 50 years, and then from 18 years to 39? Or, do we queue up in alphabetical order? How about keeping two distinctive lines, one for men and another for women?

The biometric registration is definitely the way to go for December 7. But how can we make it less cumbersome, less laborious, more productive and more fun to encourage all eligible voters to come out to register?

Credit: Reality Zone With Vicky Wireko This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

From: Vicky Wireko



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