An electoral educational programme dubbed; “The 2008 Elections in Ghana and America: Sharing Lessons and Experiences,” was outdoored in Accra on Thuesday by leading political figures from the two countries.
The political interactive platform seeks to offer the two countries an insider perspective of issues pertaining to the presidential election in Ghana slated for December 7th and that of the U.S for November 4th.
The Americans would also learn from their Ghanaian counterparts operations of the electoral system, the voters register, campaign configure, role of the media, and other related local electoral issues.
Ms Hannah Tetteh, Public Affairs Director of the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) and Nana Ohene Ntow, General Secretary of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) represented Ghana in the first of a series of panel discussion slated for Accra, Kumasi and Cape Coast.
The USA was represented by Professor David Ian Lublin, Professor of Government at the School of Public Affairs, American University, Washington DC represented the Democratic Party whilst Ms Roselyn O'Connell, President of the National Women's Political Caucus stood for the Republican Party.
The educational lecture series is being organised by United States Embassy in Accra in collaboration with Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) and was attended by representative of various political parties, academia, civic educators, media practitioners and a cross section of the general public.
Prof. Ian Lublin, explained the American federal government system with elected officials at Federal (national), state and local levels. On a national level, the Head of State, the President, is elected indirectly by the people, through electors of an electoral college.
He said both federal and state laws regulate American elections defined by the USA Constitution how federal elections are held, in Article one and two with various amendments.
He said State law regulates most aspects of electoral law, including primaries, the eligibility of voters, the running of each state's electoral college and the running of state and local elections.
Prof Ian Lublin said the President and the Vice President are elected together in a Presidential election. The election is indirect, the winner being determined by votes cast by electors of the United States Electoral College.
In modern times, voters in each state select a slate of electors from a list of several slates designated by different parties or candidates, and the electors typically promise in advance to vote for the candidates of their party (whose names usually appear on the ballot rather than those of the individual electors).
The winner of the election is the candidate with at least 270 Electoral College votes. It is possible for a candidate to win the electoral vote, and lose the (nationwide) popular vote (receive fewer votes nationwide than the second ranked candidate).
State law regulates how states cast their Electoral College votes.
Speaking on campaign financing, Ms O'Connell, said the financing of elections has always been controversial, because private sources of finance make up substantial amounts of campaign contributions, especially in federal elections.
Voluntary public funding for candidates willing to accept spending limits was introduced in 1974 for presidential primaries and elections. The Federal Elections Commission has the responsibility to disclose campaign finance information, to enforce the provisions of the law such as the limits and prohibitions on contributions, and to oversee the public funding of U.S. presidential elections.
Ms O'Connell said the campaign fund limit was to eliminate the incident of political god fathers who might control the President, “more people donate towards the campaign fund, it therefore becomes difficult for any individual to hijack the party.”
She said eligibility of an individual for voting is set out in the constitution and also regulated at state level and cannot be denied on grounds of race or colour, sex or age for citizens of eighteen years and above.
She said beyond these basic qualifications, it is the responsibility of state legislatures to regulate voter eligibility. Some states bar convicted criminals, especially felons, from voting for a fixed period of time or indefinitely.
Ms O'Connell said registering to vote is the responsibility of individuals in the United States, since voters are not automatically registered to vote once they reach the age of 18.
Ms Tetteh enumerated on the electoral challenges encountered during the recent limited Voter Registration exercise where minors and foreigners were alleged to have registered.
She urged all political parties to join forces with the Electoral Commission during the Voter Exhibition exercises from Sunday, October 5th to Saturday, October 11th to help identify names that should not be captured on the register to be removed before Election Day.
The NDC Public Affairs Director suggested a continuous registration exercises as the panacea eliminating multiple registration and other registration irregularities to maintain the integrity of the Voter's Register.
She also talked about abuse of incumbency, abuse of media freedom and inability of the National Media Commission to fast track cases before it, and the ineptitude of the media to probe into campaign financing of the political parties.
Nana Ohene Ntow suggested that Ghana's electoral system should be reformed for decentralised agencies to manage the elections.
He also expressed concern about the electoral law which prohibit a either a temporary or permanent staff of EC to question the eligibility persons who applies for registration.
“Registration Officials has no legal authority to challenge a potential person for registration even though the physical evidence may show that the person is a minor…its only a Party Agent at the registration centre who has the authority to challenge such a person through a cumbersome procedure,” the NPP General Secretary noted.
Nana Ohene Ntow therefore called for amendment to the electoral process of registration.
He called for closer analysis of the popular refrain of abuse of incumbency, which he noted is always champion by the opposition; “when we were in opposition, we accused the then ruling NDC of abuse of incumbency, now the tables have turn and we are at the receiving end of the accusation.”