EC To Cut Voting Time

EC Boss Jean Mensa

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.

Ayawaso Cue

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.”

Shaky Start

 “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.”

Close Collaboration

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.

By Issah Mohammed

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