The petitioners in the ongoing presidential election petition have affirmed the critical importance of serial numbers on pink sheets, the need for each polling station pink sheet to have a unique serial number and why the court should uphold the arguments of the petitioners and annul the results from all the 8,987 polling stations where the malpractice of same serial numbers on pink sheets occurred.
In the written address of counsel for petitioners filed on Tuesday, the petitioners elaborately laid out the reasons for why the conduct and outcome of the December polls were compromised by the occurrence of duplicate serial numbers.
The petitioners introduced their arguments on this malpractice on the fact that a cardinal objective of all electoral processes since 1992 has been how the security of election materials would be guaranteed to avoid such issues as substitution of election materials by unscrupulous persons determined to compromise the electoral process by replacing authentic electoral materials with forgeries.
The Electoral Commission, the petitioners noted, had tried to achieve this objective by among others pre-embossing electoral material with unique serial numbers to ensure that as much as possible, electoral materials are unique at all polling stations and to make it easy for forged/ foreign materials to be detected.
The petitioners contend that this is the reason why for example, ballot papers are pre-embossed with serial numbers and why same is done with almost all election materials like ballot boxes, stamps and tamper proof envelopes.
The petitioners therefore noted that “It would, accordingly, be astonishing, if not self-defeating, where the primary record of the election, which are the pink sheets, on which results are declared, had no serial number as a security feature to prevent substitution or forgeries of such critical electoral materials”.
The address of the petitioners drew the court’s attention to the evasive answers Dr. Kwadwo Afari Gyan gave on the matter of serial numbers on pink sheets and his eventual admission that pink sheets are sensitive materials in elections and that the serial numbers on the pink sheets are the only distinguishing features between two unfilled pink sheets.
“This admission, it is respectfully submitted, supports the petitioners‟ proposition that, if a person lays his hands on an unfilled or blank pink sheet, that person can fill it out with what purports to be results of polls in a polling station and the fraud perpetrated by that person will go unnoticed. This is because, as the evidence at the trial showed, the essential distinguishing factors of a polling station, i.e. polling station name and code, do not come pre-embossed. It means that in order to secure the integrity of results from a polling station or, in order to authenticate results from any polling station, the genuineness of the paper on which the results are recorded must be determinable through some means. This means, it is submitted, is through the embossment of the serial numbers on the pink sheets”, the address stated.
The petitioners indicated that the point on serial numbers on pink sheets was not about what gave polling stations their identity and uniqueness but that however, what is unique to each pink sheet is its serial number.
“The point here is not that what gives a polling station its identity and uniqueness are the serial numbers of the pink sheets. Not at all! What gives the polling station its identity are the polling station name and code. The point, however, is that what is unique to each pink sheet is its serial number. For each pink sheet has a specific serial number pre-embossed on it from the printers. All other features on it are the same as any other pink sheet. So once a particular pink sheet is assigned to a particular polling station with a particular code and the presiding officer writes, by hand, the name and code of that polling station in the space provided on the pink sheet, the serial number locks the polling station name and code to that polling station for good., the address noted
For the petitioners, the serial numbers on pink sheets in this sense constitutes security features and could be rightfully likened to the serial numbers on a cheque book, one’s passport or currency, all of which come with pre-embossed serial numbers.
The petitioners in their address noted how the Electoral Commission had failed to come up with a candid response on why it decided to print two sets of pink sheets and why even after printing the two sets, it went ahead to use all the two sets even though one set was more than enough for the election.
The Electoral Commission’s explanation that it printed two sets of pink sheets because it did not know the exact number of candidates at the time of printing according to the petitioners is “rather disingenuous explanation, however, falls apart completely when regard is had to the real facts and the evidence on the face of the pink sheets”
The petitioners explained that the pink sheets could have only been printed after the 19th of October when the Electoral Commission held the ballot for candidates to determine the order in which they would appear on the ballot paper at which time the Commission knew exactly how many candidates were involved in the election.
According to the petitioners, when account is taken of the fact that an overwhelming majority of irregularities such as over voting, voting without biometric verification and absence of presiding officers signature occurred on pink sheets with duplicate serial numbers, “the full significance of the malpractice of deliberately deploying the same set of pink sheets to different polling stations becomes evident.”
For the petitioners, the printing and use of pink sheets with same serial numbers provided the opportunity for persons to fill in polling stations names, codes and results outside the polling stations which clearly compromises the elections.
According to the evidence, total votes affected by the use of duplicate serial numbers are 3,508,491. If annulled 2,344,540 would have to be deducted from the votes of John Mahama and 1,097,169 from the votes of Nana Akufo-Addo. With these annulments and deductions, John Mahama will have 43.15% of the valid votes while Nana Akufo-Addo will have 55.45%. This means that the category of duplicate serial numbers by itself is enough to overturn the declared outcome of the elections.
BELOW IS AN EXTRACT FROM THE ADDRESS OF THE REPORT ON Triplicate/Quadruplicate SERIAL NUMBERS:
In his evidence-in-chief, Mr Asiedu Nketia, the representative of 1st and 3rd respondents, sought to suggest that he is not even very sure what petitioners claim to be serial numbers on the pink sheets are. This feigning of ignorance of the serial numbers on the pink sheets is belied by the fact that, both in their Amended Answers filed on 26th February 2013 and their joint affidavit evidence sworn to by Mr. Asiedu Nketiah on 16th April, 2013, 1st ad 3rd respondents state categorically that serial numbers are not unique to polling stations and constitute no security feature. This effort by 1st and 3rd respondents to deny the existence of serial numbers, even though evident on the face of the pink sheets, exposes a curious anxiety to conjure this reality out of existence.
Mr. Asiedu Nketia said that if the serial numbers were the security feature petitioners claim they are, then the 2nd respondent would have drawn the attention of all political parties to that fact during the various training programmes the 2nd respondent had with their party agents, as was the case with serial numbers on the ballot papers; and that the fact that this did not happen shows that no significance should be paid to the numbers. The simple answer to that is that the serial numbers constitute an internal check and security mechanism for the 2nd respondent itself and not so much for polling agents on polling day.
What is more, since duplicate serial numbers could be discovered only after the fact, that is, after elections, when all pink sheets are brought together and analysed, polling agents at specific polling stations dealing with specific pink sheets would be in absolutely no position to detect the use of duplicate serial numbers, unlike the case of serial numbers of ballot papers which polling agents could detect on election day.
On his part, Dr. Afari Gyan, the Chairman of the 2nd respondent and the returning officer for the presidential election, who should know better, has equally stated that it is the polling station name and code that is unique to a particular polling station and that once the name and code of the polling station are written on the space provided on a particular pink sheet, it does not matter that another pink sheet with the same serial number is used for a different polling station with its unique name and code.
This, with respect, begs the question and underscores the flaws in the electoral process of December 2012 and how the conduct of 2nd respondent itself afforded an opportunity for legitimate results of voting at polling stations to be altered and/or swapped. The point, however, is that if only one set of pink sheets, each with a unique serial number, had been printed, and yet at the close of polls there was discovered pink sheets with the same serial numbers but different results, that will clearly constitute a grave malpractice.
Another question that begs for an answer is the rationale for printing two sets of pink sheets. With respect, the convoluted reasoning proffered to this question by 2nd respondent, in paragraph 18 (a) of its 2nd Amended Answer filed on 3rd April, 2013 provides no explanation. It rather leaves many more questions unanswered and manifestly points to the lack of a plausible explanation. 2nd respondent avers in its Answer that they printed the two sets of pinks sheets in anticipation of there being more than eight (8) candidates for the presidential election; that this could have come to pass had the nominations of a number of potential candidates not been rejected for not meeting the qualifying criteria. This rather disingenuous explanation, however, falls apart completely when regard is had to the real facts and the evidence on the face of the pink sheets.
In the first place, both sets of the pink sheets had already printed on them the names of the eight (8) candidates that, indeed, qualified to contest and, in actual fact, contested the 2012 presidential election. One would have expected that, if the rationalisation of 2nd respondent was true, it would have left the second set of pink sheets blank for the potential presidential candidates, as is the case with parliamentary election pink sheets. What, however, definitively gives the lie away is the fact that both sets of pink sheets had the names of the eight (8) presidential candidates for the 2012 election embossed on them in the order of their placement on the ballot paper.
This meant that the pink sheets were printed only after the ballot among the candidates to determine their order of placement on the ballot paper was determined on Friday, 19th October 2012. By that date, the 2nd respondent had rejected the applications of the potential nominees for presidential election. There was, thus, no reason for the printing of a second set of pink sheets.
The question which rings out and cries for a convincing answer, therefore, is: the rationale for the 2nd Respondent‟s printing of a second set of pink sheets, with exactly the same candidates and same serial numbers.
Furthermore, having printed this excess set, it is yet to be convincingly explained why 2nd Respondent decide to use them and indeed used them when there was no need to.
It becomes apparent that Dr. Afari Gyan‟s response that there was nothing wrong with having pink sheets with the same serial numbers being used for different polling stations, provided the uniqueness of the two polling stations could be identified by their different names and different codes, actually begs the question why this should happen.
When account is taken of the fact that most of the polling stations where the constitutional and statutory violations of over-voting, voting without biometric registration and the absence of signatures of presiding officers occurred, are found on these pink sheets with duplicate serial numbers, the full significance of the malpractice of deliberately deploying the same set of pink sheets to different polling stations becomes evident.
Indeed, as Dr. Mahamadu Bawumia, 2nd petitioner, noted in his testimony, the only unique feature of each and every pink sheet which is already printed on delivery to the 2nd respondent is its serial number. All other features are the same. The polling station name and code and the other entries are hand written and any one up to mischief can sit in his or her house and fill in the duplicate pink sheets with correct polling station code and name and sign them. This is precisely what printing only one set of pink sheets each with a unique serial number was to prevent and this is what printing two (2) sets of the same pink sheets with the same serial numbers for no good reason whatsoever provided opportunity for.
Dr. Afari Gyan had also stated in his evidence-in-chief that the numbers on the pink sheet have no significance because unlike the serial numbers on the ballot papers, this is not a requirement of any statute or instrument. Admittedly, Regulation 26(2) of Public Elections Regulations 2012 (C.I. 75) provides thus: “Every ballot paper shall: (c) have a number on it”.
However, it should be noted that there is no law or regulation requiring that the official stamp used to stamp ballot papers at the polling station should bear serial numbers, yet for good reason, these stamps all bear serial numbers, as a matter of established practice of the 2nd respondent.
More specifically, however, is that Regulation 26 (c) C. I. 75 does not say every ballot shall have a serial number on it. The reference is to “a number”, but this is understood to mean serial number. This is because the only purpose of numbers on articles in such situation is to provide the articles with a mark of identification. There would be absolutely no purpose of having pre-embossed numbers on such an article if it were random without any record of the random nature.
Dr. Afari Gyan, in an attempt to explain this away, said in his evidence-in-chief that it was simply to provide a count of the number of pink sheets printed. If that were so, the pink sheets, it is respectfully submitted, should have been numbered from 1 to the last copy.
It is noteworthy that Dr. Afari-Gyan eventually conceded in cross-examination by counsel for petitioners on 10th June, 2013 (at pages 68 – 69 of the record of proceedings for that day) that if one set of pink sheets had been printed and used in the December 2012 election, a serial number on the pink sheet would have been unique to each polling station. The following transpired between counsel and the witness.
Q. Now apart from this set of pink sheets, you printed another set.
A. Well, my lords it translates to that.
Q. And the second set you printed was the same as the first set in all material particular.
A. My lords, yes because the second set was supposed to be a continuation of the first.
Q. So was the second set, in fact, a continuation?
Q. Now Dr. Afari Gyan, if you had not printed this second set, the first set distributed to all the polling stations could have remained unique to each particular polling station?
A. My lords, yes, I would agree with you.
Again, it is for same reason that the numbers on the ballot boxes, the tamper proof envelopes and above all the pink sheets, the primary document on which the election results are based and declared, are in series. Any argument, that there may be pre-embossed numbers on any of the election articles, but they are not serial, is not only untrue but flies in the face of good reason and ought to be rejected as misconceived.
In the circumstance, it is respectfully submitted that the phenomena of pinks sheets with same serial numbers being used for different polling stations constitute a grave security breach, which undermines the integrity of the elections where they occurred.
The results therefrom ought to be annulled, especially in the face of the overwhelming evidence that the duplicate serial numbers became the mechanism by which all the other infractions, were committed in the December 2012 elections, just as where two passports with different names but the same serial number or two cheques with the same serial number are rejected by the relevant authorities as completely untenable.
If there had been any doubt as to the significance of serial numbers in securing the integrity of elections, and assisting the detection of voting malpractices, such doubt was put to rest on the final day of cross-examination when counsel for petitioners confronted Dr. Afari-Gyan with triplicates and quadruplicate serial numbers on different pink sheets. This dramatically demonstrated the manipulation to which pink sheets bearing the same serial numbers were put in the 2012 presidential election.
Dr. Afari-Gyan‟s evidence highlighted the significance of the testimony of the 2nd petitioner that 88% of all the constitutional and statutory violations, malpractices and irregularities occurred on pink sheets with the same serial numbers.