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Politics of Friday, 12 December 2008

Source: Ghana Celebrities

Nduom & Co Trail Rejected Ballot

As Ghana is getting matured democratically, it has become clear that individuals are getting confused with the voting process. This accounts for the huge rejected ballots being recorded each time Ghanaians go to the polls. The number of rejected ballots recorded in the first round of the 2008 presidential race was unprecedentedly higher than ever; both in terms of percentages and in terms of actual figures.

The Chairman of Electoral Commission, Dr. Kwadwo Afari Gyan announced on Wednesday that in the 2008 election as many as 205, 438 ballots were rejected for no reason than voters improperly thumb printing the ballot paper.

According to him, the rejected ballot constituted 2.4 percent of a total 8,671,272 votes cast. Hypothetically, the “rejected ballot party” placed third in the 2008 presidential race ahead of Dr. Papa Kwesi Nduom of the Convention People’s Party (CPP) who placed third with 113,494 (1.34 %) behind Prof. John Evans Atta Mills of the NDC who place second with 4, 056,634 (47.92 %).

In fact the percentage of the rejected ballot also far outstripped the combined performance of Dr. Edward Mahama of the People National Convention (PNC), Emmanuel Ansah Antwi of the Democratic Freedom Party, Thomas Ward Brew of the Democratic Peoples Party, Kwesi Amoafo Yeboa, an Independent and Kwabena Adjei of the Reformed Patriotic Democratic. In short, if rejected ballots were a political party they could boast of a steady increase in popularity ahead of the smaller parties since Ghana’s return to multiparty democracy in 1992.

Rejected ballots accounted for 1.53 per cent or 111,108 of the 7,256,872 votes cast in 1996; 1.58 per cent or 104,214 of the 6,605,084 votes cast in 2000 and 2.13 per cent or 188,123 votes of the 8,813,908 cast in 2004.

Had the rejected ballot been valid, one of the two leading contestants (Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo of the NPP and Prof. John Evans Atta Mills might have won first round. This would have saved Ghana additional resources needed to organize a second, not to mention another three weeks of political rivary between the NPP and NDC.

A number of reasons have been assigned for this year’s high number of rejected ballots. Mr. Kojo Asante of the Coalition of Domestic Election Observers (CODEO) told Public Agenda the situation was partly attributable to confusing voter education.

Initial information went out to voters that they could use any finger to vote. But later, the Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC) and the EC agreed that only the thumb could be used. Then on voting day, the small finger of the left hand was dipped in indelible ink, which could have added to the confusion about whether to use the small finger or the thumb.

Mr. Asante, who is the Manager of the CODEO Observation Centre for election 2008, agreed that “there was confusion between using the small finger or the thumb.”

He recommended more voter education ahead of the presidential run-off slated for December 28 2008. He identified the EC, the National Commission on Civic Education (NCCE) and political parties as those with the primary responsibility to educate the electorate.

In the view of Mr. Alexander Tetteh, National Administrator of the Ghana Society of the Physically Disabled (GSPD), three reasons accounted for the high number of rejected ballots. Firstly, “I think the voter education was very low,” he told this paper in a telephone interview.

Another reason was that “We were not aware of how the indelible ink would be applied.” Then we could talk about the distance between the table where voters dipped their small fingers in the indelible ink and the screen where they voted. He said in some cases the distance was short and the ink could not dry before voters entered the screen to thumbprint.

Some other views have been expressed on why there were such a high number of rejected votes this year. In television and radio discussions, some analysts and commentators have explained that on a lower scale, this could mean protest votes. They believed some voters demonstrated their disapproval for all the candidates.

TV news showed some ballot papers with multiple thumbprints for two or more candidates. But radio discussions monitored indicated that some voters preferred more than one candidate and therefore decided to thumbprint for all their favourites.

In 2004, NDC was the first to complain about the high number of spoilt and rejected ballot papers (2%) which it alleged reduced its chances of winning the presidency. Turnout in this year’s election was 69.52 percent of the total number of 12,472,758 registered voters.

In 2004 turn out was as high as 83.2%. What accounted for the unimpressive turnout is still a subject of debate among the various political camps, with NPP arguing that it particularly suffered from the low turnout in strongholds like Ashanti and Eastern Regions.

Mr. Kennedy Agyepong, the reelected MP for Assin North, argues that when president Kufuor contested in both 2000 and 2004, turnout in Ashanti Region was about 85 percent. In 2008 turnout was a little more than 60 percent.

In his analysis about 600,000 qualified voters in Ashanti Region alone failed to turnout to vote. He said in the Eastern Region another 400,000 voters also failed to turn up at the polls. The motives behind the possible low turnout ranged from internal bickering between sitting MPs and party executives regarding the distribution of microfinance and small loans scheme.

The NPP also suffered from downright arrogance and complacency from the top brass of the party. NDC suffered a similar fate in 2000 when they thought no forces could unseat them. They have probably learnt a good lesson on how never to be rude to the electorate.

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