If success attends the proposition of the Electoral Commission (EC) to close the polls early and, also, jettison the time-tested safeguard against voter fraud, the use of the inedible ink, in the upcoming 2024 general elections, it would be, yet again, a brazen-face attempt by the current leadership of the commission, to subvert Ghana’s democracy which is still in its youth.
While the jury is still out on the assertion that Ghanaians have a short memory, lets recall, briefly, some of the foul acts exerted by Mrs. Jean Adukwei Mensa, the chairperson of the commission, and her team. In 2020, by official sanction, the chiefs and people of Santrokofi, Akpafu, Lipke and Lolobi (now collectively called SALL), making up around 17,000 voters, were denied their constitutional right to participate in a lawful election; and by that very fact, doubly jeopardized as they were left with no representation in the 7th parliament of the 4th Republic.
Another example is the March 2023 adamance of the EC, even against the objection of parliament, on introducing a highly inhibitive voter registration requirement. The EC was absurdly unyielding in its efforts to procure a legal instrument that would establish the Ghana Card as the sole form of identification to register to vote, despite glaring evidence that obtaining the Card in convenient time was a challenge for many Ghanaians especially the nonliterate inhabitants of towns and villages. The EC works in the interest of the Sovereign, the people of Ghana, who have delegated their sovereignty to the MPs, so it’s rather odd that the EC would insist on a policy opposed by the MPs, the very people for whom it works. Never in the history of a democracy has the custodian de jure also doubled as the conspirator in practice.
Now, let’s move to the EC’s brewing electoral assaults which are our current concern; beginning with the embarrassing suggestion by Mrs. Mensa that the polls close at 3:00 PM for the 2024 general elections. Mensa premised her proposition on an uncritical observation that polling activity peaked by 1:00 pm in 70% of the polling centers in past elections. What about the remaining 30% polling centers? The deeply concerning issue with this proposition, however, is the unconscionable indifference towards one of the indefeasible charted freedoms of the modern era, the right to vote.
We would want to state emphatically that the pioneering and superseding mandate of the EC is to jealously uphold and protect the right to vote. Any action that would lead to the disenfranchisement of even a single voter would be a dereliction of the official obligation of the EC to make the franchise accessible to every Ghanaian. Closing the polls at 3:00 PM is not only at odds with people’s memory of past elections but also not within the universal, conventional closing time of 5:00 PM-6:00 PM for many human daily enterprises. The unspoken rule that official practices and regulations conform with normative societal memory, habits and expectations is something that is strictly adhered globally. This is an ethical and moral imperative because it affords everyone a reasonable opportunity to participate. Closing the polls early would most certainly lead to the disenfranchisement of voters. And no accruing benefit, such as the timely counting of votes and early declaration of results, named by Mrs. Mensa as the incentive of her proposition, is greater than the charted right to vote.
Now to the matter of the inedible ink. The application of inedible ink on the fingers of voters to indicate that they have already cast their votes during elections, as one of the layers of security to prevent multiple voting, is still widely practiced. India, the largest democracy, and whose name is synonymous modern technology, still relies on the indelible ink as a crucial part of its electoral process. Other countries include Indonesia, the Philippines, Afghanistan, Kenya, Malaysia etc. The EC argues that the use of the biometric voter verification system makes the application of the inedible ink redundant. If a jury was impaneled to hear arguments on this matter, the EC will be compelled to testify against itself and self-incriminate, given that its own experiences in past elections confirms the propensity of technology to glitches and manipulation, more so in our part of the world. A multi-layered approach that incorporates both biometric verification and indelible ink acts as a robust safety net, ensuring that any unforeseen issues with one method do not compromise the entire process.
There is also the symbolism of the indelible ink to the democratic process, which is not a trivial matter. The visibility of the inedible ink on one’s finger, out and about, in an election season communicates that one has carried out one’s civic responsibilities.
If the leadership of EC continues this path, it is inclined to hand down to posterity a commission with a badly impaired integrity, unlike its predecessors.
The authors of this article are Ghanaian Professionals in the Boston Massachusetts Area