With less than two weeks to the referendum on the creation of new regions slated for Thursday, December 27, 2018, the Let My Vote Count Alliance (LMVCA) seeks to ascertain the preparedness of the Electoral Commission (EC) for this historic activity.
The last time a region was altered was 35 years ago in 1983 when the Upper Region was split into the Upper East and Upper West regions. Indeed, the 2018 referendum marks the very first time that the provision of Article 5 of the 1992 Constitution on the creation or alteration of Regions has been invoked.
There is, therefore, the need for rigorous sensitization and voter education on the processes involved in the referendum.
Although the referendum will be held in only the proposed six areas (Western Northern, Oti, Ahafo, Bono East, Savannah and North East Regions), it is important to note that the electorate in these areas are scattered across the length and breadth of the country as it is common practice for people to live elsewhere yet return to their hometown to vote.
Thus, any voter education relating to the referendum needs to take a nationwide approach in order to be effective.
The importance of voter education and sensitization cannot be overemphasized given that a minimum voter turnout of 50% of the electorate in the affected areas is required to validate the referendum.
Historically, the most patronized elections are Presidential elections and the turnout for the 2016 election was 68.62% (for 271 constituencies). The voter turnout drops significantly in run-off elections and is even lower in District Assembly elections. It is therefore imperative that adequate preparation is done to ensure that the resources invested in the referendum are not squandered due to a low voter turnout.
There are two key questions that need to be answered to reflect the importance of participating in the referendum.
1. What are the implications if the voter turnout in a particular area is less than 50%?
2. What are the implications if less than 80% of those who vote, vote either Yes or No?
The LMVCA finds it extremely worrying that with less than two weeks to the referendum, the implications of a low voter turnout have not been clearly spelt out.
We are therefore calling on the EC as well as the NCCE to augment their efforts and activities in the coming weeks to create a high level of awareness to ensure effective participation in the referendum and to educate the electorate on their rights and responsibilities in this exercise to ensure that the resources spent on this all-important referendum do not go waste.
Let My Vote Count, Don’t Destroy our Democracy!!
John H. Acquaah
Director of Operations
LET MY VOTE COUNT ALLIANCE (LMVCA)