The Chairperson of the Electoral Commission (EC), Mrs Jean Mensa, has attributed the success of the just-ended district and unit committee elections to the feverish preparations the commission made towards them.
She said although parliamentary and presidential elections were the flagship national exercise, local level elections were the largest and most herculean, as they required more logistics and planning.
Therefore, pulling of the elections smoothly, and with negligible incidents of arrests, she said, cemented the EC’s expectation of a freer, fairer and more resounding general election next year.
Mrs Mensa was speaking in a telephone interview with the Daily Graphic yesterday on the conduct of the district and unit committee elections held last Tuesday in 31,850 polling stations across the country, with more than 38,000 candidates contesting.
The Daily Graphic’s report on the elections across the country indicated that in over 6,000 electoral areas, the exercise went on generally violent free, smoothly and peacefully, with very minimal hitches.
With the exception of the Ekumfi Immuna Electoral Area in the Central Region, where the police requested for a postponement of the elections to avert likely law, order and security disturbances in the area, the conduct of the elections was generally smooth.
Although they are non-partisan, district level elections, in terms of logistics and planning, are considered bigger than presidential and parliamentary elections.
Expatiating on the successful outcome of the elections, Mrs Mensa pointed out that unlike presidential and parliamentary elections where the EC had to develop a single plate and 275 plates, respectively, the situation was totally different in district level elections, where two elections took place simultaneously and “we need to develop 13,000 plates, with different pictures and names before printing”.
Without a break in her voice, she declared: “We did this without a hitch and without the usual confusion, including missing ballots, interchanged registers and interchanged ballot papers, as well as missing the names of contestants, that has characterised this sort of elections.”
The EC Chairperson said the commission supervised the coordination of all aspects of the electoral cycle, from procurement, IT solutions, printing of ballot papers and registers, distribution of materials, among others, adding that the commission set up an ad hoc committee, made up of all categories of staff from the districts to the headquarters.
“We set timelines for all unit and departmental heads and held weekly peer review meetings to ensure that everyone was on track,” Mrs Mensa stated.
That, according to her, promoted a sense of ownership and “the can-do spirit among staff”, adding: “In the end, the entire election cycle functioned smoothly and effectively.”
Another novelty, she pointed out, was the delegation of the deputy directors of the EC to monitor and supervise the printing of ballots for their respective regions, work around the clock to review all drafts and correct them before printing was done.
That eliminated printing errors to a large extent, she stated.
Furthermore, she said, ballots and registers, as well as materials, were sent to the regions well ahead of time, indicating that “a lot of care had to be exercised, so you do not make mistake”.
On the low turnout, Mrs Mensa said the EC was yet to collate and compile the voter turnout.
She, however, said its initial observation indicated that voter turnout was rather impressive in the rural areas, as against the urban.
The EC Chair underscored the need for an extensive public education and sensitisation of the citizenry towards making elections at the local level more vibrant.
She suggested a half-day holiday as a measure to whip up interest in local level elections.
On the 2020 polls, she gave an assurance that the EC was working towards delivering credible, free, fair and peaceful elections.
“Our doors are open and we will engage with all stakeholders to ensure that all policy decisions are communicated to the citizenry, and in return we receive feedback,” she added.
Compiling of new register
On the EC’s plan to change the current voters register, Mrs Mensa said the current register was not effective.
Currently, she said, the technology used by the commission was obsolete and there was the need to upgrade it.
She further stated that the current system used fingerprints, and because it was obsolete, there was a high incidence of manual verification.
“This is not the best, since it could not only compromise the integrity of elections but also risk the temptation of thumbprinted materials and we think it will be very important to have a credible register that includes facial recognition,” she said.
Mrs Mensa added that the EC had engaged with all primary stakeholders, including the political parties, and would continue to do so with other stakeholders in due course to be responsive to the needs of the people.