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18.01.2006 Politics

Stunning facts about ‘Reject votes’

By Statesman

“Reject vote, in effect robs a constitutionally qualified voter of his right to choose his representative, or by and large, his ruler.”

Council of State member Fred G Asante has recommended that the country's electoral regime, especially the conduct of elections, be reviewed to reflect the realities on the ground.

He has taken particular issue with the concept of reject votes, arguing that the outcome of an election could be skewed in favour of a candidate if the agents of the contestants so decide.

His analysis reveals the stunning injustice that could be caused by rejected votes. For example, Agnes C Asangalisah won the Builsa seat by 13 votes. But the rejected votes totaled 736. Also, Alidu Iddrisu Zakari took the Walewale seat by 865 votes. But the votes rejected numbered 2,178. Again, Bayirga Haruna is representing Sissala after a winning margin of 29 votes, in spite of 877 ballot papers being rejected. “It should be borne in mind that an agent who is to watch the interest of a candidate is to a large extent biased against other opponents of his candidate. Indeed all other agents can gang up against the interest of a particular candidate.

“I am of the strong view that the agents in such a role are more or less Jurors sitting over their own case and in their own court. That smacks like a negation of norms of Natural Justice,” Mr Asante argues in his new tome, “The Kufuor Legacy: The Hop, Step and Jump Presidential Race.”

In the 268-page work, which contains a synopsis of results of General Elections of 1996, 2000 and 2004, Mr Asante posits that a re-design of the ballot paper, as well as the whole electoral process, would curtail the incidence of having over 2% of votes cast in all elections conducted in the Fourth Republic declared rejects. The EC comes in for special blame.

“To design a ballot paper in a way and follow it up with a process that has over the years not been applied correctly and has been responsible for the rejection of 2% or so of total votes looks like an overt or covert act of disenfranchising some voters.

“I think all will feel relieved if the Electoral Commission would take a second look at the design of the ballot paper and come out with a balloting process that will make the illiterate, the ignorant and all exercise fully their right without faltering in one way or the other.”

Such a review would have the most impact in choosing parliamentary candidates, where the results of elections would likely change dramatically if no or fewer ballots were rejected. In the 2004 election, 14 would-be MPs could have lost their seats if all the rejected ballots had been added to those of their competitors: in some cases the winning margin was less than 30.

REJECT VOTES AN OPEN LOVE LETTER TO THE CHAIRMAN OF THE ELECTORAL COMMISSION FROM F G ASANTE, AN ELDER OF DANQUAH / BUSIA FAMILY

REJECT VOTE, in effect, robs a constitutionally qualified voter of his right to choose his representative, or by and large, his ruler. Article 42 of our constitution clearly underscores the fact that a Ghanaian of “18 years of age or above and of sound mind” has the right to be registered as a voter.

Furthermore, Article 43 sets up an Electoral Commission whose functions are spelt out in Article 45, clause of C of which empowers the Commission “to conduct and supervise all public elections and referenda.” Flowing from the above, the Electoral Commission has outlined and come out with electoral processes and regulations regarding voting in public elections and referenda.

One such act is the design of a ballot paper which a voter has to use. The ballot paper in question has pictures of contesting candidates and their symbols or their respective party symbol.

To indicate his choice, a voter is to thumbprint against his chosen candidate. It is in this regard that the problem of reject vote emanates. For a ballot paper to be certified valid, the thumbprint has to be in the blank area of his chosen candidate or within the area where the photograph of his chosen candidate is pasted.

However every agent of a contesting candidate can raise objection to the validity of a ballot paper, if in his opinion, a thumbprint mark is not exactly within the bounds of a candidate. If such view is supported by other agents, then invariably such ballot paper is rejected and therefore discounted. It should be borne in mind that an agent who is to watch the interest of a candidate is to a large extent biased against other opponents of his candidate. Indeed all other agents can gang up against the interest of a particular candidate.

I am of the strong view that the agents in such a role are more or less Jurors sitting over their own case and in their own court. That smacks like a negation of norms of Natural Justice. Somebody, somewhere, probably a Human Rights Advocate should raise his voice.

Some believe that education is the answer. That unfortunately may not exactly be the case. For, there are many instances where a voter may find his ballot paper in the Presidential election valid whereas the one in the Parliamentary is declared invalid. If it were not so, both Parliamentary and Presidential would normally have the same valid votes.

I hold very strongly that participating in public election is a fundamental right of a constitutionally qualified Ghanaian and that no one, indeed no authority, should act to make nonsense the exercise of that right. To design a ballot paper in a way and follow it up with a process that has over the years not been applied correctly and has been responsible for the rejection of 2% or so of total votes looks like an overt or covert act of disenfranchising some voters.

I think all will feel relieved if the Electoral Commission would take a second look at the design of the ballot paper and come out with a balloting process that will make the illiterate, the ignorant and all exercise fully their right without faltering in one way or the other.

Let me now come to some real life situations.

In 2004 JAK won with 52.45% votes. In the same election, 2.13% votes were declared invalid and were therefore not counted.

Assuming all the invalid votes were valid and were also not votes for JAK, he all the same would have won but with a smaller margin.

His overall votes would have dropped from 52.45% to 51.32%, a reduction of 1.13%.

It is rather frightening in Parliamentary. In 2000 as many as 18 MPs, 11 NDC and 7 NPP might have had some problems had the rejected votes been deemed valid. The net result would be:

i. Some would have won with bigger votes margin

Or

ii. Others would have won with lower votes margin

Or

iii. And in the worst scenario, some might have lost their seats entirely.

In 2004, the number was reduced to 14.

To appreciate the concern I am raising, I am listing here under a list of MPs who would have sat on thorns at the time of counting if the votes were all valid.

No.

Name of MP Constituency Party Winning Margin Votes Reject Votes Votes Difference

i. Alima Mahama Hajia Nalerigu NPP 49 1648 1599

ii. Alidu Iddrisu Zakari Walewale NDC 865 2178 1313

iii. John A Ndebugre Zebilla PNC 113 1397 1284

iv. Doris A Seidu Chereponi NPP 312 1247 935

v. Alex S. Sofo Damango/Daboya NPP 295 1213 918

vi. Bayirga Haruna Sissala PNC 29 877 848

vii. Alhassan Yakubu Mion NDC 261 997 736

viii. Agnes C. Asangalisah Builsa NPP 13 736 723

ix. Wumbei Kofi Karim Wulensi NPP 612 1187 575

x. Labik Joseph Yaani Bunkpurugu IND. 1171 1736 565

xi. George Kofi Arthur Amenfi Central NDC 133 638 505

xii. Sallas Mensah Upper West Akim NDC 245 611 366

xiii. Kofi Konadu Apraku Offinso North NPP 390 461 71

xiv. Samuel Nee Aryetey Trobu Amasaman NPP 442 499 57

HIGHLIGHTS

NPP – 7; NDC – 4; PNC – 2; IND – 1;

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