The Electoral Commission has listed 21 specific acts which constitute severe electoral offences and are punishable under Ghana’s laws in a view to ensure free, fair and competitive elections.
The commission described an election offence as any act, or omission in connection with polls under the Criminal Offences Act 1960, Act 29 or the electoral laws or regulations.
“Such acts or omissions have been made illegal with a view to ensuring free, fair and competitive elections,” the Commission said in its new guide to candidates and their agents launched on Friday.
The 28-page guide seeks to help party candidates and agents understand the nomination and balloting processes as the Commission engages stakeholders to enhance transparency and integrity in the 2016 elections.
The booklet also outlines responsibilities of candidates and officials who will oversee the conduct of the presidential and parliamentary elections that have garnered high level of local and international interests.
It said there are several acts that make up an election offence, however, some of the offences require particular attention as they are in connection with an election.
The commission frowns on any attempt to vote before the poll officially opens or after it closes and to vote or attempt to vote if you are not qualified to do so.
To vote or attempt to vote in the name of another person, living, dead or fictitious and to put anything other than a ballot paper into a ballot box when an election is in progress constitute offence.
Some of the offences are to obstruct, or interfere with work of an election officer; to force somebody to vote in a particular way; to impede, or prevent a voter from freely exercising his/her right to vote and to give or receive money or something of value as a means of inducing a person to vote, or not to vote, in a certain way.
Others are to use or threaten to use force or violence against a person or group of persons; to inflict or threaten to inflict physical or spiritual injury or harm on a person; to remove any notice lawfully exhibited in connection with an election and to intentionally destroy a ballot paper or any form related to an election.
It is prohibitive to forge, print or be in possession of a ballot paper without lawful authority; to tamper, or attempt to tamper, in any way with the contents of a ballot box; to misconduct yourself as an election official and to make or publish, by written or spoken word or by song, a false statement about the person character of another candidate or conduct of a political party.
It is illegal to excite enmity against a person, group of persons, or political party on grounds of religious, ethnic, professional, regional, or political affiliation; to organize or train a group of persons in the use of force or violence for election purposes and to compel or induce a candidate to withdraw his/her candidature.
The rest of the 21 offences are to canvass for votes or seek to find out how a person intends to vote within 500 metres of polling station and to take to a polling station anything that reveals the candidate or party you intend to vote for.
“It can be seen that an election official, a polling agent, a party official, a candidate, a voter, or any member of the general public could commit an election offence,” EC said in the guide.
“”A person found guilty of an election offence may be fined or imprisoned or both,” it added, “for some offences, a person may also be disqualified from voting in subsequent elections or from holding public offence.”