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General News Sat, 15 Oct 2016

NCCE urged to educate citizens on rejected ballots

Varied views have been expressed on the huge number of rejected ballots and how to reduce the incidence.

At the launch of the National Commission for Civic Education’s (NCCE) research findings on ‘’Matters of Concern to the Ghanaian Voter’’ in Accra on Wednesday, while some were of the view that the challenge resulted from the attitude of some voters, others were of the view that continuous education could help reduce the challenge.

Rejected ballots had constituted a chunk of the votes cast in the country’s elections since the introduction of multi-party democracy in 1992.

It was the consensus of the participants that all should join in the effort by the NCCE to educate Ghanaians on how to vote accurately to reduce the incidence of rejected ballots.It was the consensus of the participants that all should join in the effort by the NCCE to educate Ghanaians on how to vote accurately to reduce the incidence of rejected ballots.

EC data on rejected ballots

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According to Electoral Commission (EC) records, the number of rejected ballots recorded in the first round of the 2008 presidential election was unprecedentedly higher than ever, both in terms of percentages and in terms of figures.

As many as 205,438 ballots, which constituted 2.4 per cent of 8,671,272 total votes cast, were rejected in the 2008 election.

Many political parties posited that the “Rejected Ballot Party” placed third in the 2008 presidential race and that if rejected ballots were a political party, they could boast a steady increase in popularity ahead of the smaller parties. 

In the 2012 general election, the number of rejected ballots stood at 251,720 (2.3 per cent). Although the number of rejected ballots as a percentage of the total votes cast reduced by 0.13 per cent from the 2008 rate of 2.4 per cent in 2012, the 2012 rate was still higher than the 2004 rate of 2.2 per cent.

Again, the number of rejected ballots in 2012 was higher than the total votes of all the other presidential candidates, excluding those of the NDC and the NPP.

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Factors for rejected ballots 

Undoubtedly, the issue of rejected ballots has become one of the key things that undermine the will of the electorate and ultimately affect the country’s electoral processes.

In the first election in 1992, rejected ballots accounted for 3.6 per cent of the valid votes cast. This, however, reduced to 1.53 per cent in 1996. In the first round of the 2000 general election, it accounted for 1.8 per cent of the valid votes but reduced to 1.58 per cent during the presidential run-off. In 2004, it started soaring and constituted 2.2 per cent  of the valid votes cast. The trend continued at the 2012 polls.

While some attributed the incidence to drink-voting, others were of the view that some political party polling agents took entrenched positions on the ballots when they realised that by adding those votes, it could convincingly and clearly lead to a win for a particular candidate without doubt. 

Challenge

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Answering a question on the challenge,  A Deputy Commissioner of the NCCE, Mr Samuel Asare Akuamoah, said drink-voting had been identified as one of the factors responsible for the huge figures of rejected ballots.

According to him, a lot of people took some alcohol on election day before going to cast their votes. He said most of them ended up spoiling the ballots because they were drunk and therefore could not clearly see the faces of the candidates.

Mr Justice Nyigmah Bawole, a senior lecturer of the university of Ghana Business School, who said he served as a presiding officer in the 2012 election, said the issue could be blamed on entrenched positions taken by some polling agents when there was a little doubt about the intention of the voter.

He said sometimes for lack of caution, a voter’s thumb print might stray a little over the box he intended to thumb print. He, therefore, urged the EC to ask  its returning officers to be resolute and firm on such issues. 

He said some of the voters who took monies from political parties to vote for them, put their thumbprint in the boxes of all the parties they took money from in order to fulfill an oath  sworn to such parties in order to avoid curses that might befall them for not voting for those parties. 

A contributor, who wanted to remain anonymous, said the incidence could be the result of some voters inability to follow the guidelines on the folding of the ballot paper after thumbprinting. 

Nii Ayi Krotia of James Town called on the EC to use a type of ink which could easily dry up for the thumb printing of the ballot paper to avoid the incidence.

Source: Graphic.com.gh