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Opinions of Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Columnist: Daily Graphic

Rejected ballots threaten our democracy

One of the major issues of concern to many institutions and people who believed in the democratic journey prior to the December 7 general election was the issue of rejected ballots.

Out of the 8,704,937 total votes cast in the 2008 general election, 205,966 of them, representing 2.37 per cent of the votes cast, were rejected. That raised serious concerns for democratic-minded institutions and individuals, as the number of rejected ballots was even greater than the votes garnered by some presidential candidates.

Prior to this year’s elections, the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) gave an assurance that it had embarked on intensive education to address the problem of rejected ballots. But, lo and behold, the number of rejected ballots rather increased by almost 50,000 to 251,720.

It is interesting that in terms of percentage points, rejected ballots were more than the votes garnered by six of the presidential candidates put together.

What a national challenge!

While not undermining the public education of the NCCE, the Daily Graphic thinks that the educational programmes often come rather too late in the day, especially when the political temperature is high.

We acknowledge the financial challenges facing the NCCE which dis-enables it to fulfill its task of sensitizing members of the public to their obligations. At times, some of its partner institutions, and in this case the Electoral Commission (EC), may not support it with the relevant information on election guidelines and procedures.

It is also a fact that but for the disagreement among the party agents at the various polling stations, some of the rejected ballots could have been reconsidered.

And, as observed by the Deputy Chairperson of the NCCE, Madam Augustina Akosua Akumanyi, the manner in which voters’ smallest fingers were dipped in indelible ink as evidence of exercising their franchise and to check multiple voting could be a contributory factor.

She said it was possible that after their smallest fingers had been dipped in ink, some voters, in the process of thumb-printing and folding the ballot papers, ended up spoiling the ballot papers.

But to ensure the integrity of the polls, some potentially good ballots are rejected by the returning officers and the party agents.

The Daily Graphic thinks that the issue of rejected ballots must be critically addressed, since the high numbers recorded are an indictment on the democratic process. Sometimes, a high number of rejected ballots are recorded in supposedly enlightened communities, including our university campuses.

Although the NCCE has given an indication that it would analyze its report and come up with the appropriate interventionists measures, we believe all democratic- minded institutions and individuals must start the education now to enlighten the electorate on reducing the incidence of rejected ballots in future.

The Daily Graphic believes that we cannot afford to wait for another election year to educate the public on what to do and what not to do on election day.

The time to act is now.