Ghana’s 2020 National Elections

With the aim of giving all Ghanaians the opportunity to vote, the Electoral Commission was intent on using the latest, most secure biometric technology to register voters and ensure verified voting.

With a total population of 31 million people, 58% of which were over the age of 18, there were more than 17 million citizens eligible to vote. This project was to be done over six months and – most crucially – during a pandemic. Laxton was a key part of facilitating the process from the planning phase all the way through to results management.

Despite many obstacles, on the 7th of December 2020, Ghana successfully held its National Presidential Elections, a victory for the Electoral Commission and Laxton.

“We need to celebrate the fact that in spite of the Covid-19 pandemic and its uncertainties, we are able to prepare a brand new Voters Register with over 17 million persons in 38 days.”
Jean Adukwei Mensa
Chairperson, Electoral Commission of Ghana

Fair, efficient, credible

During the National Elections in 2016, over 15,000 voters were registered using fingerprint biometrics. Various security measures were taken by the Electoral Commission (EC) to ensure credible results on election day, starting with verifying voters by their fingerprints.

Based on lessons learned in 2016, the EC aimed to make the 2020 elections an even smoother, more accurate process. By adopting the latest biometric technology, these elections would give every eligible voter the opportunity to register and cast their ballot, no matter how rural their location.

Unlike previous elections, the EC would be funding the entire voter registration and election process without using donor funding. This made delivery within budget essential.

The mission: to hold independent, democratic, and internationally recognised Presidential and Parliamentary elections on the 7th of December 2020, using the latest biometric technology of an international standard.

Clear goals

The service provider chosen to implement the Biometric Voter Management System would have to supply, install, train, test, and commission the technology in support of successful elections. This would have to be done with boots on the ground, cost effectively, and within a fairly short period of time.

Early in 2020, Laxton and its project partners were appointed to customise, deliver and implement a mobile Biometric Registration Kit, Voter Verification system, and comprehensive support services to manage the entire process.

In the initial planning phase, no one could have predicted the impact of the pandemic. “With the resulting restrictions imposed, the task became that much more difficult,” explains Adriaan Booysen, Laxton’s Post Sales Technical Specialist. “The agility of our processes proved that we are able to come up with effective solutions to get the job done.”

Setting up critical infrastructure

Despite the logistical challenges resulting from international Covid-19 restrictions, Laxton used its network of global logistics partners to deliver 8,530 Biometric Registration Kits on time and ready to use. Equipment was housed, set up, and tested at warehouses in Accra and Kumasi before being dispatched to registration sites across the country.

Ghana reported its first Covid-19 case in March 2020 and the resulting restrictions posed a major challenge for the cross-border logistics, health and safety risks to everyone involved and added pressure on the project timelines.

The first and most intense phase of the operation was successfully carried out between June and September 2020. Laxton deployed support personnel to Ghana to receive, inspect and help prepare the Biometric Registration Kits and Voter Verification Devices delivered via its extensive logistics network.

The appropriate health and safety measures were taken at every phase of the project, with every consideration given to the thousands of technical implementation staff, electoral officials, and the Ghanaian citizens at large.

Technology tailored to meet all requirements

The Biometric Registration Kits (BRKs) were packed into rugged IP67 cases branded with the Electoral Commission logo to prevent theft. Each case, containing all the required registration hardware, weighed less than 15 kilograms, making it easier for Registration Officers to carry from site to site.

To facilitate the registration of more than 17 million eligible voters located all over the country, the solution included registration and verification hardware, software, technical support, and the training of various personnel needed throughout the process. Some of the deliverables were to shorten registration and voting queues, reach citizens in far-flung regions, and make the process as seamless as possible while considering the reality of each location’s infrastructure challenges. To achieve this, Laxton’s in-house development team customised both the hardware and software to guarantee a simple, smooth registration process. Each registration kit was made up of:
  • 14-inch laptop
  • 1080p camera
  • 4+4+2 fingerprint scanner
  • 12+ hour battery life to ensure registration could continue where electricity was not available
  • A4 printers to print out registration forms and voter cards
  • Customised and integrated components to allow for easy part replacement
  • LED indicators and outside charge ports to enable quick status checks and charging
  • Ergonomically placed components to allow for comfortable operation of the equipment
  • An energy and heat management system to make the equipment durable and safe to use
  • Packed in a rugged IP67 case with a total weight under 15 kilograms
 
The digital identity verification of citizens reduced the chance of voter duplication and delivered a secure voters Registration Roll.

Biometric Registration Kits were customised with the specific circumstances of registration sites in both urban and rural areas in mind. This meant using high-quality but lightweight equipment, supplying long-life batteries and power banks for sites without electricity, as well as considering the ergonomic comfort of both the Registration Officer and the registrant.

"The freshly-compiled voters' register by the Electoral Commission is arguably the most credible voter register in Ghana's history."
Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo
President of Ghana

Data accuracy and security

Laxton delivered a full inventory of spares, tools and other materials to mitigate any technical problems during the registration and voting process. The technical support team of 50 technicians were provided by a local partner and situated at two support centres in Accra and in Kumasi.

As part of the focus to ensure secure and accurate voter registration and voting on the day, the equipment was individually inspected on arrival. A detailed report, including component serial numbers, was supplied to the Electoral Commission.

“We were delighted to report that throughout the project phases, all milestones were successfully met, despite the Covid-19 pandemic, which impacted industries and supply chains worldwide,” said Booysen. “Because of our hands-on approach and the agility of our processes, we were able to get the job done and exceed the expectations of the Electoral Commission.”

For the first time in Ghana’s history, the EC could securely register ALL voting citizens, no matter their remote location or limited infrastructure.

Ensuring the authenticity of the ballots

Handheld device used for Voter Verification in Ghana

Laxton delivered a full inventory of spares, tools, and other materials to mitigate any technical problems during the registration and voting process. The technical support team of 50 technicians was provided by a local partner and situated at two support centres in Accra and in Kumasi.

As part of the focus to ensure secure and accurate voter registration and voting on the day, the equipment was individually inspected on arrival. A detailed report, including component serial numbers, was supplied to the Electoral Commission.

“We were delighted to report that throughout the project phases, all milestones were successfully met, despite the Covid-19 pandemic, which impacted industries and supply chains worldwide,” said Booysen. “Because of our hands-on approach and the agility of our processes, we were able to get the job done and exceed the expectations of the Electoral Commission.”

For the first time in Ghana’s history, the EC could securely register ALL voting citizens, no matter their remote location or limited infrastructure.

In-country training goes virtual

A crucial element of Laxton’s end-to-end service includes face-to-face training of electoral officials doing the voter registration and verification. This time ’round, Covid restrictions prevented face-to-face training and forced the Laxton team to get creative.

Detailed training videos were created, guiding operators through all the aspects of operating the hardware. The videos were shared on WhatsApp support groups set up specifically for the project. This proved to be very effective and addressed all the questions raised by the operational team.

An intensive in-person training session was also conducted with the 40 technicians selected from across Ghana by the EC. The training ensured that this team was completely comfortable with the hardware. It was followed by a comprehensive skills assessment, on which the team scored an impressive average of 96%.

Registering ALL eligible voters

Electoral Commission Officers oversee the registration of Ghana’s President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, for a voter ID card at a registration centre in Kyebi, in the Eastern Region of the country. Image: Ghana Africa News.

With Laxton’s biometric voter register, it was possible to register citizens online and offline. The Biometric Registration Kits were set up to make the software easy to use and the hardware easy to transport (and even) carry to remote locations. The result ensured a smooth, quick process for both the operators and those being registered, creating a positive user experience.

The registration phase took place from June through to August 2020, with thousands of registration stations set up in urban and even the most remote locations across Ghana to give every citizen the opportunity to register in four easy steps.

  1. Eligible Ghanaian citizens over the age of 18 could register by presenting a valid form of identification (passport, driver’s license, Ghana Card, Existing Voter ID Card, or two guarantors) at the registration location.
  2. The applicant submitted their name, age, sex, and residential address to complete the registration form.
  3. With the completed registration form, a clerk captured the voter’s fingerprint and facial image.
  4. A registration official then issued a laminated Voter ID Card and receipt of registration. The Voter ID Card had to be produced to vote on Election Day.

From the available statistics collected during every phase of the project, there was no observable increase in Covid-19 cases in Ghana during registration and voting

Successful elections held during a pandemic

Ghana’s election occurred as Covid-19 cases surged and only weeks after the death of former president Jerry John Rawlings. Nonetheless, the polls were open for voting on the 7th of December, as scheduled.

The Biometric System implemented secured the voting process to an internationally accepted standard. A fingerprint and facial image verified the voter, acting as proof that a citizen cast their vote. As an added measure to prevent fraud, printed poll books were also used to identify the voter.

Once a verified voter cast their ballot, the electoral officer registers it on the verification device and the printed poll books. Once ticked off the registration list, there was zero chance for them to rejoin the queue and vote again.

Once the polls closed, the tallying of the vote was performed numerous times by hand, to avoid miscounting, and then signed off by the Electoral Officials.

Electoral Commission celebrates the outcome

After a conference led by the EC and attended by several stakeholders, the Chair of the Electoral Commission of Ghana, Jean Adukwei Mensa, stated: “We need to celebrate the fact that despite the Covid-19 pandemic and its uncertainties, we can prepare a brand new Voters Register with over 17 million persons in 38 days.”

In an official communique released by the Inter Party Advisory Committee, the Chair highlighted the key achievements of the 2020 Elections:

  1. Ghana was able to conduct Presidential and Parliamentary Elections in six months in a COVID environment.
  2. A seamless process markedly shortened queues on Election Day.
  3. The deployment of technology to guarantee unique individuals were registered to vote, thereby enhancing the credibility of the Register and the Electoral process.
  4. Reducing the cost of the Elections at a time when the cost of elections across the world was rising
  5. Attaining 79% election participation; the highest to date.

All political parties represented at the meeting unanimously agreed that “the 2020 Presidential Elections were efficiently and successfully organised; that the elections were transparent, credible, fair and met international standards”.

Laxton achieved what it set out to deliver: an end-to-end national election solution and results that the citizens of Ghana could believe in.