Ghana needs urgent electoral reforms!

Voter Sent File photo: A voter casting her ballot

Mon, 8 Mar 2021 Source: Kwaku Antwi-Boasiako

Ghana has just endured another divisive 2020 elections and an even more divisive presidential election petition at the Supreme Court. Without going over the many issues at the heart of the tensions, acrimony and divisiveness, I believe many people would agree that our electoral system would need some reforms going forward.

For me as a voter and a citizen, there are two proposals I have for the Electoral Commission and all stakeholders to consider: remove constituency and regional collation centres for presidential elections and introduce electronic voting (to implement ROPAA and to ease voting for all).

Remove constituency and regional collation centres for Presidential Elections

I have voted in all presidential and parliamentary elections since 1992. For the most part, voting, counting and announcing results at the numerous polling stations have been conducted peacefully and smoothly. Under those circumstances, it is difficult to understand why we should still have controversies in our presidential elections. From my personal observation, a lot of the controversies we have had over the years in our presidential elections have come from the additional, and needless, layers of collation of results.

From 1992 to 2016, results of presidential elections were first announced at each polling station, with a copy of the Pink Sheet required to be posted at each polling station.

All polling station results were then forwarded to the constituency collation centres. After results have been collated at the constituency level and certified, those results are then forwarded to the National Collation Centre of the Electoral Commission (a.k.a. the Strongroom). In 2020, per C.I. 127, a Regional Collation Centre was introduced, adding another layer to collation of results.

As we all witnessed in the 2020 elections, there were not many controversies surrounding results announced at any polling station, if any at all. The validity of the presidential election results at the 38,622 polling stations were not challenged by anybody, to the best of my knowledge. I think one of the reasons the EC is unable to declare results within 24 hours of voting is the needless delays associated with collation of results at the constituency and regional collation centres.

I hereby propose to the EC and all stakeholders to consider removing constituency and regional collation centres from the election process. This will ensure a much quicker turnaround of results. The EC can set up a simple system at the International Conference Centre, monitored by the usual agents of candidates and accredited institutions.

And if people are worried about cost, I can assure you that a simple Shared Excel spreadsheet hosted on EC’s servers is all that is required, together with fibre broadband, secure WhatsApp lines (or any custom-made App), printers and giant monitors. At the end of polling, all agents will be allowed to take a photo of the Polling Station pink sheet.

The Presiding Officers will send their copies of the pink sheets directly to the International Conference Centre (the new Strongroom). As the pink sheets are received, everybody will observe them on giant monitors being downloaded and printed. Trained Data Entry personnel will receive the printouts and simply enter the relevant details onto the Shared Excel spreadsheet, which usually has an auto-save function.

Observers will be able to see in real-time collation of the results from the Shared Excel spreadsheet on giant monitors. It wouldn’t take an IT geek to set up such a system, and it wouldn’t cost a fortune to have it up and running! What it will achieve though, would be a totally transparent and faster collation of results that can allow the EC to declare results in less than 12 hours after voting!

Introduce electronic voting

In 2017, I submitted a proposal to the Electoral Commission on electronic voting. I will simply copy and paste that proposal below:

It is my hope and expectation that should the EC and stakeholders implement the two proposals above, collation of future presidential election results would be done with less controversy and declaration of results can be done within 24 hours of voting so the country should not have to sit on tenterhooks after every election.

Columnist: Kwaku Antwi-Boasiako
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