The Electoral Commissioner, Jean Mensah is setting the stage for another potential chaos as she announces that polls for the 2024 general elections will close by 3 pm rather than the 5 pm and 7 pm that polls had traditionally closed.
In the December 2020 general elections, the haste to announce the Presidential election results within 24 hours after polls close as planned by Jean Mensah and the EC, resulted in widespread chaos at the polling stations, resulting in eight people being shot dead mostly by security agents and a consequent election petitions that lasted almost two months this year.
According to Jean Mensa, the proposal was initially billed to take effect in the 2020 elections but had to be shelved because of COVID-19.
At the opening ceremony of a two-day retreat with political parties and development partners in Accra today, Jean Mensah said: “We propose closing the polls at 3 pm rather than 5 pm. In 2019, we announced our decision to close the polls at 3 pm rather than 5 pm, in the 2020 Elections. Nonetheless, owing to the COVID-19 pandemic and the stringent, and necessarily time-consuming safety protocols we instituted at our polling stations, we were compelled to put this proposal on hold.”
According to her, a section of the public and their “own experience” from the 2020 elections shows that the plan to reduce election time is practical.
“Over the past months, however, this proposal has re-surfaced from various sections of the public, and indeed, our own experience from the 2020 Elections has revealed that it is a workable proposal, as by 1 pm, most polling stations were empty, suggesting that this is a workable proposal. Therefore, this is a reform we intend to put forward,” she said.
However, critics think she is treading on dangerous grounds, given the usual logistics issues that bedevil each election in Ghana. Indeed, in 2020, in her haste to conclude elections on time, the EC disenfranchised an entire constituency in the Volta Region from participating in the parliamentary elections.
The constituency collectively called the Santrofi Akpafu Lolobi Likpe (SALL) is still in court seeking redress for the unprecedented sidelining by the EC.
Meanwhile, the EC boss has revealed that the Commission gets rid of the periodic nationwide limited registration and exhibition exercise and to replace it with an all-year walk-in provision at their district offices. “Again, we propose to do away with the system of periodic nationwide registration exercises and institute an all-round system where citizens who turn 18, or persons who have not previously registered, may visit any district office with their Ghana Card or passport and register as voters. This will help us do away with nationwide registration exercises and go a long way to reducing cost of elections,” she said.
“We further propose a year-round exhibition system that will enable citizens check their registration details on their smartphones and other mobile devices. Citizens would not need to wait for an exhibition exercise to check their details. They will be able to do so, all year round,” Mensa said.
In the 2020 elections, the faux pas caused by the haste to announce the presidential elections within a 24-hour schedule forced her to announce false results of the Presidency. Eventually, in their attempt to correct the goof, the EC released six successive corrections, all of which did not tally.
This forced the Presidential Candidate of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) John Dramani Mahama to file an election petition, but the Supreme Court panel that adjudicated the case torpedoed Mr. Mahama’s petition.
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