North Tongu Constituency, Volta Region, September 15, 2023 – More than 3,000 young voters in the North Tongu Constituency of the Volta Region are at risk of missing out on the ongoing limited voter registration exercise.
The Electoral Commission (EC) has decided to restrict the registration process to its district offices, a move that has faced opposition from some political parties and has made it challenging for residents in the vast and geographically split constituency, which is divided by the Volta River.
For hundreds of communities located several kilometres away from the EC district office in Bator Aveyime, the cost of a round trip can be as high as GHC 300, making it financially unfeasible for many to travel with two guarantors.
Even those living in closer communities, such as Salaga, which shares a border with the Ho West District, would have to pay GH¢150 for a motorbike ride to Juapong before proceeding to Bator. The average cost for a motorbike ride from nearby communities like Deve, Avorkpoe, Ayram, Avedotoe, and Workpui is GH¢40.
Some residents expressed their concerns, with one-grain seller in Juapong stating, “I will have to sell 10 bags of maize for my 10 children to go and register. And so, I said they will not go.”
Residents in Juapong pointed out the discouraging transportation costs, as well as the difficulties faced by the elderly and sick individuals in their communities, as reasons to establish a registration centre in their town.
Transportation challenges are compounded by the Volta River, which poses risks during the rainy season. People in the region fear crossing the river due to the risk of drowning, and some opt for longer and more expensive routes through Sogakope to access the registration center.
Mr. Okudzeto Ablakwa, who visited communities in the constituency to assess their challenges with the exercise, expressed concern that several communities had made sacrifices for the construction of the Kpong Dam but were being left out of a national participatory exercise.
He emphasized that all citizens had contributed to the country's progress and that voting was a right, not a privilege.
The MP continued his visit by crossing the river to the EC office, where only 250 individuals had been registered in the three days since the exercise began. Network challenges and accessibility issues were blamed for the slow registration process.
The centre had to close early at 5:00 PM due to network issues, leaving many frustrated.
Mr. Ablakwa pointed out that the situation was not unique to this constituency and could lead to gerrymandering and the inclusion of non-residents on the electoral roll in the area. He also highlighted the need for a more extensive approach, as this limited registration exercise is the first in two years.
The limited voter registration exercise began on September 12, 2023, and will conclude on October 9, 2023.
Reporting by Samuel Akumatey. Editing by Mariam Aminu.