Ghana's Electoral Commission (EC) says it's put structures in place to ensure transparency in the voting on December 7, when Ghanaians go to the polls to elect a new president and 230 new members parliament. The Electoral Commission is mandated by the Constitution to conduct elections in Ghana. Voice of America English to Africa reporter, Joana Mantey, in Accra, spoke with the director of elections, Albert Arhin, who says the commission is working to ensure that voting takes place in all regions, including remote areas accessible only by bicycles and canoes:
"We used to have boxes which were opaque. We now use transparent boxes. Voting also takes place in the open. We involve the political parties in the printing of ballot papers. We get them involved in whatever we do at the printing houses," he says.
Getting all the parties involved is a way of building trust and openness in the activities of the EC. Members of the political parties belong to a body known as an Inter Party Advisory Committee, IPAC. Since its formation in 1994, IPAC has helped develop a code of ethics for political parties to follow during election periods. It also influenced the adoption of optical mark readers, scanning devices that can read pencil marks on ballot papers. The number of those read by the scanner will be matched later against those in the ballot boxes. If a ballot box has extra ballots, fraud can be suspected.
But the voter register is alleged to be bloated, including more voters than exist in the country. Arhin attributed this to statistical error and double registration by some people:
"In the registration that we did recently, people who had their names on the register but have lost their cards came and registered again. People were bringing in minors because they thought that numbers [would give their vote added weight] during elections. We are now compiling the names of those who registered [more than once], and we are preparing to send their names to the police for prosecution," Arhin said.
An estimated 12.5 million voters are expected to cast their ballots on Dec. 7. Arhin is confident that enough provisions have been made to forestall any shortage of ballot papers. Provisions have also been made for any run-offs. While parliamentarians are elected by simple majority, the top two presidential candidates face a run-off if no one gains more than 50 % of the votes cast in the first round.
Arhin said counting of votes starts at the polling stations before the public to help allay fears about swapping or stuffing of ballot boxes [before they are] transported to constituency counting centers:
"The public is invited to the counting. We don't go and hide in a room to count and come and paste the results for people to see. If a ballot is in dispute, the people are there to see, and we give details of the results to the candidates at the polling station. By this we are saying that integrity starts from there and ends at the headquarters of the commission," he says.
There are 16 registered parties in Ghana. Arhin said eight are taking part in the presidential election and 12 in the parliamentary election.