The Electoral Commission (EC) is planning to reduce voting duration by an hour and will table the issue for discussion with the political parties and all stakeholders in the coming weeks.
“As a security measure, the commission will discuss the idea of reducing the voting duration from 7:00am to 4:00pm to allow for the counting and collation of results well before dark,” Jean Mensa, Chairperson of the EC, announced in Accra yesterday.
Tension & Suspicion
Sharing Ghana’s experiences and good practices on the prevention and mitigation of election-related violence during the opening of a three-day ECOWAS-UN workshop, the EC boss said the security measures when implemented “may lead to the early declaration of the results and help to reduce the tension and suspicions that manifest during the waiting period.”
“As a commission, we are not only keen to ensure a peaceful and conducive voting environment, but we are keen to guarantee the security of the ballot and make every vote count. In this regard, one of the issues that has occupied our minds is the duration of voting,” she said, adding, “Currently, voters have between 7:00 am and 5:00pm to cast their votes.”
She indicated that “the practice in the past is that voters wait until the last hour before they cast their votes. This results in long queues well after the voting ends at 5:00pm resulting in the counting and collation of votes going well into the night.This has posed and continues to pose grave danger in that it compromises security of the ballot and the safety of our electoral officers.”
Early Security Meetings
Mrs. Mensa said that the EC has already “started early engagement with our security agencies at the highest level,” adding, “We have met with the leadership of the Ghana Police Service and our discussion has centred on strengthening security at the polling stations ahead of election 2020.”
“We are planning regular meetings with them and the purpose really is to tighten the loophole and to adopt a common strategy well ahead of the election,” she revealed.
Mrs. Mensa added, “We believe that with this strategy, we would each be prepared and we would have a good understanding of the strategies that we have outlined not only at the national level but seeping all the way to the regional and district levels.”
She believed that such security measures “would also help to prevent violence,” adding “there will be regular updates of some of the flashpoint areas that are prone to violence and it would enable us to take early action before the election.”
Electoral Reform Committee
The EC boss pointed out that the EC has established an Electoral Reform Committee which has been tasked to undertake an audit of the laws, as well as systems and processes and proposed recommendations for reform and implementation.
“These reforms are geared towards enhancing the credibility and integrity of our electoral process and election security is a key area that the committee is focusing on,” she explained.
She hinted that the EC had taken an early cue from the incident during the Ayawaso West Wuogon by-election where there was violence on January 31, adding, “We have initiated a number of activities aimed at tightening security and eliminating violence ahead of our general election in 2020.”
“One of the key initiatives is the institutionalization of the Inter Party Advisory Committee (IPAC). We have, since assuming office, instituted monthly IPAC meetings. These meetings provide a regular platform for dialogue and create an avenue for the commission and political parties to brainstorm and build consensus on issues relating to elections. This platform has been an important trust and confidence building mechanism and we are witnessing the results.”
“We had a somewhat shaky start, she admitted, adding, “But due to persistent and consistent dialogue, relations between the EC and political parties have significantly improved.”
“Our continuous engagement with the political parties has helped to promote transparency and accountability around our activities as well.It is important to emphasise that we will continue to engage our political parties throughout the political cycle right from the onset with the registration. We engage them we discuss the date we provide them with timely notice which is 21 days to allow them to prepare.”
She said further that “when it comes to the exhibition of the voters’ register we also work closely with them. When it comes to the printing of ballots, we invite their representatives to the various printing houses. When it comes to even the distribution of the ballot to the various regions and districts, cars are usually accompanied by representatives of the political parties,” adding, “Of course, when it comes to even the appointment of temporary officers, we provide the political parties with the dairies or the details and contacts and photographs of these officers to enable them to scrutinize them to ensure that they are not card-bearing members of any political party and of course on election day they are heavily involved in the activities of that day.”
“We have no doubt therefore that the IPAC platform and the dialogue approaches we have adopted would help reduce tension and suspicion around our elections and hopefully help eliminate violence altogether in the lead up to the 2020 election,” Mrs. Mensa stated.