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Opinions of Friday, 18 November 2016

Columnist: Citizens Awake Forum

The electoral commission has been silent ...

... on addressing electorate on rejected ballots.

The issue of rejected ballots is a major electoral canker of the 4th Republic that still remains unresolved. Some far reaching electoral reforms have occurred since 1996, bringing increased credibility to our national electoral process.

Unfortunately, the problem of huge ballot rejection has doggedly become an integral part of our electoral process.

Article 45 of the 1992 Constitution mandates the Electoral Commission to conduct and supervise all public elections and to educate the people on the electoral process as well. The same Constitution in Article 42 empowers the Electoral Commission to register a Ghanaian of 18 years of age or above and of sound mind, the right to vote in an election.

Rejected ballot in any way or form is an election nuisance that sets out in the final analysis to rob a voter of his franchise and also undermines the fortunes of a candidate.

It does not matter whether it is Presidential or Parliamentary, the effect of a rejected ballot is simply a disaster. The right to vote to select a leader is a constitutional right. The right therefore can only be lost on grounds of a constitutional infringement. Therefore no administrative prerogative should upset such a right.

Indeed it is curious that the so called guilty voter himself might not be aware of what he might have done wrong in the voting process that finally cost him the validity of his vote.

The Electoral Presiding Officer who even declares the vote rejected would in no way be able to identify the guilty voter.

Even the party agents, the so called observers, would just be helpless.

It is even much regrettable that if a ballot paper is without the official stamp of the electoral commission, the vote on it is rejected. However the voter has no responsibility of any kind in the stamping of the ballot paper.

Indeed it is squarely a responsibility of the electoral commission. Yet it is the voter who suffers the consequence if the electoral commission should fail to stamp it. A voter’s liability for the negligence or irresponsibility of the electoral commission, if this is not jungle justice then we are at a loss what it is.

It is to be stressed that the Electoral Commissioner in the exercise of his constitutional power in setting up electoral systems and regulations would be overstretching the ambit of his power if the electoral regulations should subject the voter to literacy or education test.

Indeed voters need not be able to read or write to exercise their franchise to choose their leader. Anything that puts the voter to any such test is certainly outside the constitutional scope of any authority and it should be deemed ultra vires.

The Electoral Commission has the constitutional duty to set up systems and come out with regulations for our elections. But that does not include power to disfranchise a qualified citizen getting fumbled in the voting process.

Whether biometric or manual, we hold very strongly that elections in the country should be reject free vote.

Long live CAF!

Long live Ghana!

Signed!

Ernest Kojo Smith, a Political Economist and the Executive Director of CAF
Rubin Kwame Ayisi, a Political Economist