Ghana’s election 2020 is crucial and every ballot cast by the electorate is crucial. It is therefore important to start learning about rejected ballots and spoilt ballots and how to vote the right way in Ghana. This education is needed to enlighten both new and old voters ahead of the elections in December.
Since Ghana returned to democratic rule to use the ballot and not the bullet to elect its leaders, votes cast by some electorates have been rejected in all national elections. This often is because the voters failed to cast the vote the right way whiles in the voting area.
Rejected ballots in Ghana has been around and more disturbing since 1992. The high number of ballots rejected is very often higher than the votes obtained by other political parties contesting the elections.
Are rejected ballots and spoiled ballots the same?
The rejected ballots and spoiled ballots are never the same and mean different things, hence mixing them can create problems when we have to do an election audit.
What is a spoilt ballot?
A spoilt ballot is a ballot paper that gets damaged before or during the casting of a vote by an electorate. Such a ballot should not find its way into the ballot box in the first place. So if a voter whiles voting makes the wrong mark and realizes it, he or she can return it to the electoral officers and indicate he or she made a mistake. A new one is then given and the one returned is kept as a spoilt ballot. In some instances, the electoral officer whiles stamping and tearing may make a mistake and hence put the particular ballot aside. Such ballots must be made known to the party agents stationed at the polling station.
Ballots not properly printed are also in this category. Those soiled, torn, and otherwise marked wrongly with ink buy the voter or the electoral officer are all spoilt ballots.
What is a rejected Ballot?
A rejected ballot paper is any ballot on which a vote has been cast and which has been dropped in the ballot box by the electorate in the course of the election, it is deemed unfit to be counted for any of the parties or candidates due to the improper marking or thumb printing made on the face of it.
Ballot that may be deemed rejected include those that
- Have no mark but are found in the ballot box.
- Have more than the required mark on it. ie if we are to vote for just one candidate out of 6 and you vote for more than one on the ballot, it is deemed rejected since the electoral officer cannot tell who you actually voted for.
- Have been marked with unapproved ink. Using a pen or pencil to mark a ballot instead of the ink provided by the electoral commission will make your ballot or vote a rejected one.
- Have marks that are not official
- Have marks or thumbprints across the line that separates to candidates on the same ballot.
- Have no official mark or stamp of the EC on it. This may be due to the forgetfulness of the electoral officers or may be deliberate. Hence as a voter, you must check if the ballot has been stamped before you cast your vote.
The above issues that make a ballot rejected are in line with (Herbert and Edwards, 2007) explanations of what constitutes a rejected ballot in an election.
Rejected ballots and spoilt ballots and the headaches
Sometimes, improperly folding the ballot paper can cause your vote to be rejected. It is important that you find out from the electoral officer how you have to fold the ballot after casting your vote or learn it at home ahead of the election.
What the above means is that, if as a voter, your ballot paper given to you by the electoral officer has problems and you are not comfortable, you have right to draw the attention of the electoral officers.
Ghana’s rejected ballots statistics since 1992 shows an alarming number of voters do not know how to handle the ballot paper and vote the right way. This places a huge responsibility on the electoral commission and the NCCE.
A careful look at the number of rejected ballots since 1992 shows that not less than 110,000 votes are rejected every four years and whiles the percentage of rejected ballots may be reducing, the absolute numbers continue to increase. The attached statistics gives a better picture of the huge numbers.
The 2008 runoff elections saw some 192,886 representing 1.02%. These numbers could have gone anywhere and changed the results if the electorates were better educated on how to vote.
In the 2012 elections in Ghana, 251,720 (2.3%) ballots were rejected whiles 166,248 (1.45) were rejected in 2016.
To vote the right way in Ghana in 2020 means to know how the cast your vote. With many new voters expected to join Universal adult suffrage in Ghana haven obtained the voting age of 18, a lot of education on how this important right is exercised is needed to ensure very less ballots are rejected.
The Electoral Commission and the NCCE must start educating the electorate at least four months to election suing visual images, audio, and videos on radio, TV, and the print me.