Dealing With Overcrowding At Voter Registration Centres: EC Must Introduce A Smart Appointment Scheduling System

Jean Mensa

There is no gainsaying that until the Electoral Commission (EC) makes drastic changes, speculations, and projections that the overcrowding at voter registration centres will escalate Covid-19 infections and lead to an increase in related deaths, will see no end.

The threat of the potential increases in Covid-19 cases on the back of the ongoing voter registration exercise has been noted by individuals and groups alike. The latest to expression worries over the situation were some over 200 health workers (including Medical Officers) who petitioned the chair of the Electoral Commission.

The palpable apprehension from several quarters begs the question: What can the EC do to improve the situation; that is, reduce the crowds and properly enforce the social distancing protocol.

An Appointment System Required for Registration

The Electoral Commission must introduce an Appointment Scheduling System that will require potential registrants to determine beforehand, the date and time they would like to present themselves for registration at registration centres.

Such an appointment scheduling system should be very user friendly and should not require the use of only smartphones.

Any type of phone should be able to access the system and one person should be able to secure an appointment for another since some people do not have mobile phones.

Knowledge Kinetics Organisation (2KO) proposes the introduction of a Smart Appointment Scheduling System for Mass Registration

It is an easy to deploy system the will schedule potential registrants just like how UK and US visa applicants are scheduled.

Using quick codes (USSD), a potential registrant is directed to a registration centre in an Electoral Area.

The appropriate constituency is selected from all the constituencies displayed for a region among the16 regions based on promptings via the quick codes.

More directly, anyone who wants to register dials the quick codes that take him/her through the selection of a region, a constituency, an electoral area, and finally a registration centre of choice.

On selecting the preferred registration centre. The registrant is asked to enter his/her name and also indicate the date and time he/she would be available to go through the voter registration exercise. A message containing a unique code (identifier) is sent to the potential registrant on completing the appointment process.

The proposed smart Appointment Scheduling System is practical and can be relied upon to socially distance registrants. These are the attributes of the system:

  1. Only registrants who have appointments will show up and at the registration centres and at the scheduled times.
  2. Appointments for any particular day will be spread across the entire registration placed: 7 AM to 5 PM; with only registrants within 30 minutes of their appointment being allowed into the registration centre at any point in time. For instance, at registration centres where it takes about five minutes to register one person, only six persons will be in a queue at any particular time, re-enforcing the social distancing protocol.
  3. EC officials will be able to crosscheck the appointment of any registrant if they are in doubt based on the backend information they will have access to.

It will cost the EC as little as between GH₵20,000.00 andGH₵30,000.00 to deploy the Smart Appointment Scheduling System. The cost will be a lot less if the mobile network organizations (MNO)decide to support the process with a free messaging service.

EC Contacted
The Electoral Commission has been contacted on the possible deployment of the Smart Appointment Scheduling System.

Animated video on how the Smart Appointment Scheduling System works has been lodged with the EC.

Knowledge Kinetics Organisation (2KO) is anticipating that the Electoral Commission will consider introducing the system in the course of the voter registration exercise.

This will not only assure concerned citizens of a safe voter registration exercise but will mark the beginning of smart mass registration in Ghana and the end to the chaotic scene and underhand dealings that have attended mass registration exercises since time immemorial.

The National Identification Authority (NIA) may want to consider introducing a Smart Appointment Scheduling System in the registration and distribution of Ghana cards.

Written by: Dr Edwin Acheampong, CEO, Knowledge Kinetics Organisation (2KO)
Lecturer, University of Ghana Business School
Tel: 0548021100