A Fellow at the Ghana Center for Democratic Development (CDD Ghana) Professor Kwaku Asare, has told the Electoral Commission (EC) to support its proposal to close polls at 3PM with data.
Prof Asare notes that Mrs Jean Mensa did not provide any data to support her stance beyond observing that in 2020 about 70 percent of the voting centers were empty at about 1 PM.
This he said, is not evidence after describing it as a casual observation.
Speaking on the Ghana Tonight show on TV3 on Tuesday, December 19, the United States-based Ghanaian Professor who is also a private legal practitioner said “What problem are we trying to solve, what other problem will arise as a result of trying to solve that problem? As I understand it, the EC is arguing that if you close the poll early at 3 PM, it is still not dark so there is transparency, and you get early results, which is all good. On the other hand, when you close the poll too early, there is the likelihood that you might disenfranchise some voters but the key feature of our electoral system is that we want people to vote, we don’t want to disenfranchise anyone.
“So you have to carefully strike the balance between this transparency and disenfranchising people. The EC does not provide any data to support her stance beyond observing that in 2020 about 70 percent of the voting centers were empty at about 1 PM, that is not evidence, that is a casual observation, That was a covid era and then here there is a chance of many people showing up at 4 or at 5 depending on their work schedule.
“So it triggers an important question about the way we make laws or subsidiary legislation generally in this country. We have been doing this constitutional business for 30 years and the most important or one of the most important things in constitutional regime is the administrative state and by the administrative state, I mean agencies, authorities, etc that make laws, what we call subsidiary legislation. So you can have the laws that are made by parliament, we call those statutes, we all see the process and so on but the bulk of the laws are made by these agencies in the form of subsidiary legislation.
“Article 23 and Article 296 require that those laws, before they are made, follow some process. First of all, the EC cannot just announce a proposal, the EC has to actually put something in writing, an exposure draft, circulate that exposure draft to all stakeholders set a commoner window, give people about three months to bring comments a then distill those comments and hold hearings, so that you can have questions and answers. After those hearings, the EC members vote on the proposal and then they write their rationale for the position that they have taken.”
The Chair of the Commission, Jean Adukwei Mensa, while announcing the proposal indicated that this would allow electoral officers to collate the votes in broad daylight to ensure transparency and orderliness.
Speaking during an inter-party dialogue and stock-taking conference organized by the National Peace Council in Accra on Thursday, December 14, she intimated that the proposal stems from the experience in the 2020 elections where about 70 percent of voting centres were empty by 1:00pm.
“In 2020, 70 percent of our polling centres had a voter threshold of 500 and below. This time we intend to ensure that all our polling station centers have a threshold of 500 voters and below. In the same vein, we will increase the number of our polling stations nationwide.
“We believe that this will go a long way to reduce the long queues that characterize our elections and allow for a smooth, seamless, hustle-free voting process. In 2020, it took voters not more than five minutes to cast their votes due to the introduction of this policy.
“Based on our 2020 experience and also feedback from several observer groups we propose to close the polls at 3:00pm.
“Our experience in 2020 reveals that by 1:00pm, 70 percent of our polling stations were empty of voters as most voters had cast their votes. This made it possible because the threshold of most polling centers was reduced to 500 voters per voting center.
“This was coupled with the robust verification devices that were deployed to the polling stations. We are convinced that by closing the polls at 3:00pm, we will be able to count and collate in broad daylight and this will promote the needed transparency and orderliness that we so desire,” Mrs. Mensa said.