2020 Election: Is Ghana’s National Digital Identification Voter Suppression?

In 2017, Ghana launched a nationwide electronic chip-based authentication known as the Ghana Card. The registration drive was initiated in April of 2019. In order to register, Ghanaians were required to submit birth certificates, driving licenses and passports. In addition, biometric characteristics were captured, including faces and fingerprints. However, as local newspapers reported, the scheme faced challenges in the form of inefficiencies in registration processes, night registrations and partial registrations.

The card is intended as the primary form of personal identification and compulsory for a majority of both private and public services such as applying for a passport; registering properties; obtaining education certificates; and opening bank accounts etc. More controversially, the card is designed to be the primary ID for voting. When registering to vote, as 2020 elections draws closer, voter ID cards will no longer be accepted, along with baptismal certificates and other identity documents.

Led by candidate and former president, John Mahama, the opposition (National Democratic Congress party) have decried the exclusion of voters’ ID cards as a registration document. Mahama has argued against it, stating that the lack of a birth certificate or passport for many Ghanaians would mean they are not eligible for the Ghana Card and resultantly cannot vote.

Throughout the two-year development process, the NDC and other critics have accused Akufo Addo and his New Patriotic Party (NPP) of using digitalisation (i.e. the Ghana Card project) to disenfranchise voters.

The controversy echoes the controversy in Kenya where the High Court found that the National Integrated Identity Management System cannot be implemented without legislation to ensure the protection of biometric data and to prevent the exclusion of m