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Opinions of Saturday, 7 September 2013

Columnist: Badu, K.

Is Stuffing of Ballots Not = Over Voting?

The ‘battle of evidence’ in the 2012 elections petition and the ensuing verdict will ineffaceably stencil on the mental sheets of Ghanaians. Indeed, we are extremely grateful to both the petitioners and the respondents for illuminating our ‘benightedness’.

Who informed you that elections are not susceptible to gigantesque ‘rigging? Indeed, various forms of unlawful interferences persist in electoral process. Nonetheless, if such irregularities fail to alter the outcome of the elections, then we can ignore and inure such irregularities. That said, it becomes very alarming if the irregularities turn out to be too costly to a particular party.

Electoral fraud can be carried out in a number of ways. For instance, the favoured candidate’s share of the votes can be increased through various illegal means. Whereas the rival candidate’s share of the votes is suppressed using a number of sophisticated means.

This article looks at how election “stealers” can suppress or steal votes in a myriad of ways. The contemptible ways may encompass purging and/or caging voter lists, as well as spoiling, ejecting, blocking, rejecting, "computerization”," tossing, and stuffing ballots(over voting).

Purging

Purging in partisan election is simply the ‘cleansing’ of suspected political opponents from the voters register by officials through computer databases that identify voter characteristics (tribe/ethnicity, residence location, etc,--emphasis mine).

In other words, the databases would roll names of persons likely to be sympathetic to the "wrong" political party. Often, the officials would give flimsy excuses for the removal of duly registered voters.

Patently, purging unnecessarily takes away the democratic rights of some citizens. This abhorrent practice unjustifiably puts a particular political party at a substantial disadvantage in the elections.

Caging

In most advanced democracies for example, caging may be used to suppress or steal votes. Caging may be carried out through the mailing of do-not-forward, first-class letters to selected groups and using letters returned as 'evidence' that voters' listed addresses are fraudulent. Partisan election officials can then strike the voters' names from registration rolls and/or throw out their mail-in ballots.

For instance, this can happen to Service Men and Women serving overseas and exercising their absentee voting from their home addresses. In the same vein, this may happen to students away at school and even to voters whose addresses on registration rolls contain fatal typos made by the election officials.

Spoiling

Ballot spoiling on the other hand, may be carried out in gamut of ways. A popular one, for example, is to put punched-card voting setups in constituencies, or strongholds of the "wrong" party. Then disqualify all votes where the voter did not manage to punch the hole all the way through, as in the infamous "hanging chads" in Florida in 2000.

“Computerization”

“Computerization “is used in most matured democracies. “Computerization “is carried out using computerized "black box" voting machines. These machines are notoriously subject to sophisticated, vote-changing "hacking", but a great deal of damage is affected just by "glitches", where the machines simply fail to record votes. This is taken advantage of, in the simplest case, by placing the oldest, least reliable machines in "wrong party" precincts, or strongholds.

Tossing

Tossing is the fate of many/most provisional ballots. A wrongfully-purged voter, challenged at the polls, is given a provisional ballot. When the registration is checked later, the original, bogus, reason for purging is found, and the ballot is tossed. There is no arrangement for seeking out and correcting invalid purging.

Rejecting

In some advanced democracies for instance, rejecting happens to mail-in ballots when partisan election officials can find excuses, often frivolous, for not recording them. An 'X' in a box instead of a filled-in box, for example, or a stray mark in some inconsequential place. Or simply "losing" the ballot outright. Best part is, the voter never learns what happened.

Blocking

Blocking registration, in its simplest form, is exactly that -- partisan election officials turn down registration applications, selectively, sometimes without telling the voter. To save officials the trouble of doing even that, walls are being put in place to keep registration forms from being submitted at all. Florida, for example, instituted registration rules so picky, with penalties so severe, that groups carrying out registration drives, like the League of Women Voters, were pushed to the sidelines in that state.

There may be some instances whereby some registered voters may be ejected when they show up to vote. The ejection is arisen prominently when a registered voter fails to produce state-approved photo ID. In USA for instance, some IDs, like gun-owners' licenses, may be approved, while others, such as food stamp photo IDs, are not.

In the December 2012 general elections in Ghana for example, the then newly introduced Biometric Verification Machines “Allegedly” rejected and prevented some duly registered voters from exercising their democratic rights, whereas other registered voters were allowed to cast their votes regardless of non-biometric verification. If that was the case, then some registered voters were treated unfairly in the process.

Stuffing (Over Voting)

Stuffing boxes with phony ballots, or diddling with the count behind the scenes, is the old-fashioned way to steal elections. Yet in contemporary elections, the villainous act is still deployed in some cases. For, if that is not the case, how come election officials issued 150 ballots for example and ended up say 170 at the end of voting?

How do we classify such irregularity? Is that ‘stuffing of ballots’ or ‘influx of foreign materials? Either way, for me, such act is criminal and squeamish. Thus, it is befuddling to many discerning Ghanaians that such abominable act should be given a nod of affirmation.

Stop “kidding” yourself mate, for surely, elections can be “rigged”

K. Badu, UK.

References:

Goodman, A. (2012), The Silenced Majority: The Stories of Uprising

Did Chavez’ Pick Steal the Election in Venezuela? (www.gregpalast.com)

Billionaires and Ballot Bandits (www.gregpalast.com)