Petitioners Hung Case On Administrative/Clerical Errors — EC

The Electoral Commission (EC) has argued that it is impossible for errors not to occur in an election where more than 100,000 persons are trained on a temporary basis to control affairs for a short period. “Given the fact that the EC hires over 100,000 temporary officials who are trained for only a short time to conduct the presidential and parliamentary elections in a day or two, administrative and clerical errors are unavoidable,” the EC noted in its 15-page address filed on July 30, 2013 at the Supreme Court Registry in the ongoing presidential election petition. It added, however, that “this is not to say that the EC will not do everything in its power to ensure that such administrative errors are minimised.” Asking for the dismissal of the petition on the grounds that it had no merit, the address filed on the EC’s behalf by Lynes, Quashie-Idun and Co. contended that if elections were allowed to be annulled “on the basis of such errors, which do not injure any candidate in particular, there would be loss of public confidence in the electoral system, and the tendency to challenge practically the results of every election will be heightened.” Errors complained of in the election petition are over-voting, persons voting without undergoing biometric verification, failure of some presiding officers to sign pink sheets (statement of poll and declaration of results forms for the office of President) and some pink sheets having duplicate serial numbers. The petitioners are calling for the annulment of more than three million votes in 10,119 polling stations across the country due to what they term “gross and widespread” irregularities. Votes should be preserved Disagreeing with the position of the petitioners, the EC said “the petitioners hung their entire case on administrative and clerical errors on the face of the pink sheets.” According to the EC, the petitioners had failed to establish that the irregularities that occurred in the 2012 presidential election affected the results and urged the court to find that there was no justification for the annulment of any votes. It said the right to vote was a fundamental right given by the Constitution to Ghanaian citizens who were 18 years or older, adding that in the desire to exercise their civic responsibility in relation to that right, Ghanaians spent considerable periods of time to register as voters and stood in long queues to vote on election day for the purpose of electing their leaders in accordance with the country’s democracy. “At no time did the petitioners allege that a person voted who was not entitled to vote. Neither have the petitioners shown that any candidate or a voter engaged in wrongdoing in connection with the election. At no polling station did the number of persons who voted exceed the number of persons eligible to vote there,” it argued. Over-voting The address touched on each category of irregularity and argued that none of the categories could justify why votes should be annulled at 10,119 polling stations. On the issue of over-voting, the EC held that exhibits on alleged over-voting shown to the General Secretary of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Mr Johnson Asiedu Nketia, were different from those served on the EC. The EC said the evidence of over-voting offered by the petitioners “on the face of the pink sheet” was based only on errors made in completing the ballot accounting part of the pink sheets. “Further, if any over voting had occurred, it would have been detected during the counting of votes and the polling/counting agents would have protested. The evidence is that there was no such protest,” the EC added. No signature by the presiding officer On allegations that more than 1,000 pink sheets were not signed by some presiding officers, the EC maintained that “out of the 905 pink sheets that were not signed by the presiding officers, 99 per cent were signed by the polling agents of the petitioners.” The address intimated that the Chairman of the EC, Dr Kwadwo Afari Gyan, admitted the obligation of the Presiding Officer to sign, but argued that polling agents signed those pink sheets and for that reason the EC considered them as acceptable for the purpose of the declaration of results. No biometric verification Rebutting the petitioners evidence of persons voting without undergoing biometric verification, the EC argued that the evidence presented by the petitioners for this category was “on the face of the pink sheet”. “They did not produce a single piece of evidence of a person who saw anyone voting without having been biometrically verified,” it pointed out, adding that “most importantly, it is not disputed that there was no protest by a polling agent or any person that anyone was allowed to vote without biometric verification and the evidence of the Chairman of the 2nd Respondent was that everyone who voted was biometrically verified.” Duplicate Serial Numbers On the allegation of duplicate serial numbers on pink sheets, the EC said this category could properly be described as the weakest link in an already weak chain. “The allegation that the serial number was a security feature was not substantiated. The number was inserted not by the 2nd Respondent but by the printer in circumstances that were fully explained by the Chairman of the 2nd Respondent. The Polling Stations concerned had separate identities, results and officials,” the address pointed out.