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IEA Fights Rejected Ballot Syndrome
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In its latest electoral reform series, the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) has called on the Electoral Commission (EC), the National Commission of Civic Education, NCCE and political parties to play a proactive role in ensuring a reduction in the high incidence of rejected ballots.

The syndrome, the IEA observed “has undermined the will of people during elections and ultimately affected the maturation of Ghana’s electoral and democratization process.”

The think-tank has been making recommendations towards reforming the electoral process in the country.

The current recommendation, the seventh in the series by the IEA points out that a “rejected ballot” cannot be counted for one or more of a range of reasons.

These, the think-tank noted “are the ballot paper which do not bear the official mark; the voter has cast more votes than he or she is entitled to; the voter has made writings or marks by which he or she can be identified; the voter has left the ballot paper blank or has marked or thumb-printed it in such a way that it is not clear whom he or she intended to vote for.”

Recommendation number 7 noted that in “1992 rejected ballots accounted
for 3.6% of the valid votes cast. This reduced to 1.53% in the 1996. In the first round of the 2000 general elections, it accounted for 1.8% of the valid votes counts but reduced 1.58% during the presidential run-off. In 2004, it started soaring and constituted 2.2% of the votes cast while in 2008 it took a huge chunk of the votes recording an overall percentage of 2.4% of the valid votes cast.”

Although Ghana is getting mature democratically, it is clear that individuals are getting confused with the voting process, the IEA observed, adding that “the number of rejected ballots recorded in the first round of the 2008 presidential race was unprecedentedly higher than ever; both in terms of percentage and in terms of figures.”

According to the Electoral Commission, as many as 205,438 ballots were rejected in the 2008 elections, which constituted 2.4% of total 8,671,272 votes cast, the IEA pointed out.

The think-tank stated hypothetically that “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 placed second with 4,056,634 (47.92%).

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, recommendation number 7 stressed.

In seeking answers to the anomaly, the IEA stated that “there is a conspiracy theory that claims that most of the rejected ballots are a creation of Malevolent Election Officials, who manage to find their way to the strongholds of their opposing candidate and during the issuing out of ballot papers to voters or setting out of the ballots for counting after the poll, apply extra thumbprints to a number of ballot papers to invalidate them, thereby reducing the votes of their opponent.”

The high incidence of rejected ballots that has characterized our elections, the IEA said, poses a severe threat to the realization of the minimum requirement for democratic consolidation.

To stem the anomaly, the IEA called on stakeholders to work together to ensure a sustained educational and sensitization programme on the voting/ thumb-printing process.

“Polling agents must be vigilant to keep an eye on Malevolent Election Officials, who may deliberately invalidate ballot papers.

Such officials must be prosecuted,” they indicated.
Source: Daily Guide

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