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Opinions of Sunday, 24 May 2009

Columnist: Charnock, Annabel

Electronic Voting: If India can do it, so can Ghana! Says DI

Following the announcement of results of India’s national election this weekend, the Danquah Institute has hailed the successful conclusion of electronic voting in the world’s largest democracy and called on Ghana’s Electoral Commission to consider the numerous benefits of electronic voting as demonstrated in this latest poll.

During the month of April, an estimated 714 million Indians cast their vote, from the huge metropolises of Delhi and Mumbai down to the tiny village of Banej where just one man was registered to vote.

And in all 828,804 polling stations across the nation, voting was carried out using India’s unique Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs).

For the second election running, these hardy, easy to use battery-powered machines were deployed to collect and count votes.

Their success in doing so in a nation with areas of extreme poverty many miles from urban areas with no electricity, has added weight to those who say that a voting system that requires electronic machinery can and should be used in Ghana for the 2012 elections: if India can do it, so can Ghana.

Nana Attobrah Quaicoe, Head of Research at the Danquah Institute commented:

“India’s successful use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) for the second election running proves beyond question that such a system can work in nations where a large proportion of the population lives in rural areas lacking electricity. India’s battery powered EVMs are small, light, portable, efficient and reliable. Crucially, they are also cost-effective, when the savings in printing, transportation and storage of ballot papers is considered, together with the substantial reduction in the number of staff needed to count votes.”

“Already the Indian Election Commission has identified a number of ways in which EVMs enhance the security of polling by limiting the opportunity for criminal interference, declaring that as a result, the choice of the electorate will be more correctly reflected when EVMs are used.”

“Also of vital importance is the fact that an electronic voting system such as India’s also consigns spoilt ballots to the past, ensuring that all those who turn out to vote have their vote counted. Given the high number of spoilt ballots in Ghana’s 7 December election adopting electronic voting in Ghana could be hugely significant in enhancing the fairness and accuracy of future elections.”

When combined with the use of biometric data to authenticate identification of voters, the enhanced security of the system is immense when compared to the traditional paper ballot system. In India’s 2009 election for the first time ID cards and photographic electoral rolls were compulsory in 522 out of the 543 constituencies.

Furthermore, electronic voting offers amazing increases in the speed of collating the results: following the close of polls in India’s 2009 election it took a mere 4.5 hours to count and declare the results of over 7 million votes, in contrast to 4 days under the traditional system. This greater efficiency has numerous benefits including reducing post-election disturbances and violence whilst votes are tallied, cutting down on the window of time in which any tampering can take place, and eliminating days of uncertainty which can negatively impact upon the economy and investment.

The Danquah Institute has consistently advocated the implementation of an electronic, biometric voting system for Ghana’s 2012 elections to ensure free, fair polls devoid of any irregularities resulting from tampering, multiple voting, bribery or intimidation. The Electoral Commission has subsequently announced that it will carry out biometric registration of voters prior to the 2012 polls, but says it will not carry this through to its logical conclusion of electronic, biometric voting on election day, a decision which has been described as disappointing by the Danquah Institute.

The DI has announced its intention to convene a national symposium on the subject later in the year to provide full consideration of the advantages, disadvantages and feasibility of the system.

*For further information please contact the Danquah Institute on 021 782878*