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10.12.2004 Press Review

EDITORIALS: Rejected Ballots

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Looking at the returns from the constituencies where the results of last Tuesday's general election have been certified and declared by the Electoral Commission, there seems to be a large number of rejected ballots that together could be more than the votes cast for Dr Edward Mahama and Mr George Aggudey as presidential candidates.

The large percentage of rejected votes means that a number of Ghanaians who devoted their time and energy to exercise their franchise, directly or indirectly, rendered themselves irrelevant to the exercise. However,in destroying the validity of the ballot, those involved removed themselves from the decision-making process and either positively or negatively influenced the results particularly in the case of the parliamentary poll, which requires a simple majority and therefore makes every single vote important.

It is imperative that we intensify education on how to exercise the franchise such that the incidence of rejected votes, especially where the voter stamps more than one candidate, would be eliminated.The Electoral Commission, National Commission for Civic Education, the political parties, media and civil society organisations must act individually and collectively to sensitise our people to what to do such that each ballot cast would count in the election of candidates.

Indeed, one of the observations made by the Ghana Centre for Democratic Development was the fact that education on the voting process was not significant. Based on that the organisation appealed to the political parties to devote attention to voter education on the process. It has been proven right.

However, in certain instances where it could be clearly proven that the intention as to which candidate to vote for was not ambiguous but that in exercising the vote, the thumb trespassed over the edge, party agents must be flexible and act within reasonable limits.This is important because in some instances,the choices of voters are not in doubt. It is only because of the intransigence of party agents and their unwillingness to see reason, mindful that a single vote could change the tide, that such votes are rejected.

It would thus be necessary for the Electoral Commission, through the Inter Party Advisory Committee, to agree on some ground rules as to what will constitute an irrevocable basis for the rejection of a ballot. On a lighter note,people make fun of the inability of footballers when they miss good chances by kicking the ball over the goal post, described in sports circles as “over the bar”.

In a tension-packed football match, that could be heart-rending.The same feelings of anxiety and despair are at play when large numbers of ballot papers are rejected as invalid when a few of them could have changed the trend of voting or enabled one candidate, rather than the one who wins by default, to have emerged victorious.

We must never discount the impact of rejected votes on the overall picture of election results. Therefore, we must pursue education on the process of thumbprinting the ballot as part of our programme to ensure free, fair and open elections.

Afterall, we cannot guarantee the equality of votes when for lack of understanding and appreciation of how to mark the ballot to make it count towards the results, one group of Ghanaians mark them in such a way that they are rejected as invalid. We must educate all voters until such time that every single ballot cast will have a value in the result.

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