March 1, 2013 (Lead Story)
The Electoral Commission (EC) says no voter was allowed to cast his/her ballot without undergoing biometric verification.
It said upon being served with the further and better particulars by the petitioners on 11,916 polling stations where alleged irregularities took place, it examined and analysed its records, adding, “the analysis confirmed that, no voters were allowed to vote without verification at any polling station.”
In an amended response filed at the registry of the Supreme Court on its behalf by its solicitors, Lynes, Quashie-Idun and Co., the EC denied claims that voters were allowed to vote without undergoing verification, adding that voting continued on December 8, 2012 at about 400 polling stations where slowness or malfunction of machines was recorded on voting day on December 7, 2012.
In any case, the EC made reference to a Commonwealth Observer Group report on the elections which recommended that, “the Electoral Commission should review the exceptions to the current practice on the use of the biometric verification device to minimise the number of elderly people being refused to vote due to the difficulty in matching the fingerprints.”
According to the EC, the request by petitioners that the number of votes cast at polling stations listed by them (petitioners) should be nullified “is entirely without merit and should be refused.”
The petitioners, Nana Akufo-Addo, his running mate, Dr Mahamadu Bawumia, and the Chairman of the NPP, Mr Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey, had in their December 28, 2012, petition called for the annulment of votes cast in 4,709 polling stations but amended their petition on February 9, 2013 after the court had granted them permission to do so, and cited 11,916 polling stations as the total number of polling stations, where alleged irregularities were recorded.
They had initially called for the cancellation of 1,342,845 valid votes cast during the election at 4,709 polling stations due to what they termed “gross and widespread irregularities” recorded during the elections, but are now praying the Supreme Court to pronounce additional 3,327,659 valid votes cast during the elections as invalid.
The Supreme Court on January 7, 2013, granted the petitioners’ prayer of amendment, and accordingly allowed the amendment, thereby, making 11,916 polling stations the official figure before the court’s records.
Joined to the petition was the winner of the 2012 presidential polls, President Mahama, while the EC, which conducted the elections was sued as an entity.
The National Democratic Congress (NDC) applied to join the petition on December 31, 2012 and was duly granted permission by a 6-3 majority decision of the Supreme Court on January 22, 2013.
Thus the President is the first respondent while the EC and the NDC are second and third respondents respectively.
EC’s examination and analysis
The EC said upon being served with the further and better particulars, it conducted an examination and analysis which showed that “2,009 pink sheets that the petitioners claimed to be unsigned, 1,099 were in fact signed by the presiding officers at the polling stations or, at the instance of the returning officers at the collation centres; 905 were unsigned, representing 3.5 per cent of the total number of pink sheets nationwide.
“And, 1,989 pink sheets, representing 99 per cent of the number claimed to be unsigned, were signed by the polling or counting agents of candidates. Thus the second respondent maintains that the request by the petitioners that votes cast at the said polling stations are invalid and should be deducted is without merit and should be refused,” the EC submitted.
“It should also be noted that when several pages of paper impregnated with a carbon are used in order to have several copies of each page, it could happen that if the person signing or writing thereon does not press hard enough on the paper, the signature or writing could appear faint or illegible on some of the pages,” the EC explained in response to claims that several pink sheets were without signatures.
EC denies allegations
According to the EC, there was no single shred of evidence to suggest that the total number of votes cast exceeded the number of voters on the register.
The EC further stated the petitioners failed to comply with the court’s rulings of February 5 and 7, 2013, to provide particulars of the alleged other 28 locations where voting took place.
It said upon careful examination and analysis of the petitioners particulars, there was no justification for the deduction of votes from the votes cast in favour of the various presidential candidates.
“It should be kept in mind that all agents (of candidates) present at each polling station were given copies of the certified results of the polling station,” adding, it was clear some representatives had presented “incomplete or inaccurate constituency data to sustain the allegation of discrepancies which the second respondent considers to be heart of this suit,” the EC said in its amended answer.
The EC said the call by the petitioners for the cancellation of votes cast at where “a polling station used for the presidential and parliamentary election was also used for special voting (by security personnel etc.), that polling station kept the same code number through the results of the Special Voting and the results of the voting on December 7 and 8, 2012, were given separately,” should be invalidated, “should be refused as being unjustified and entirely without merit.”
The EC also denied any irregularities and electoral malpractices as well as working deliberately to unlawfully assist President Mahama to win the 2012 presidential poll.
On allegations that the EC failed to provide the NPP with a provisional register of voters for each polling station in accordance with Regulation 21 (2) of the Public Elections (Registration of Voters) Regulation, 2012, (C. I. 72), thereby, denying the petitioners and their party from effectively verifying the names on the list, to ascertain their authenticity; the EC said, “throughout the biometric period, the second respondent, in compliance with the regulations, gave political parties, including the NPP, daily printouts of the registrations effected at each registration centre.”
It stated that the EC declined to halt the declaration of results on December 9, 2012 because the party hierarchy which prayed it to halt the declaration in the presence of members of the National Peace Council was either provided with inaccurate or wrong data by polling agents.
It, however, conceded that “the figure of 14,158,890 registered voters stated in the declaration of results was an error occasioned by picking the wrong figure. The number of registered voters which should have been picked was 14,031,793” and which was duly posted on the EC’s website.
“In this context, it is important to emphasise that this error has no bearing whatsoever on the total votes cast in the election and, consequently, the valid votes obtained by each candidate. The error would only affect the voter turnout percentage and change it from 79.43 per cent to 80.15 per cent,” the statement explained.
On the petitioners claim of late submission of the voters’ register to the NPP, the statement denied that allegation and said “the NPP and the NDC, being the two parties with candidates in all constituencies in Ghana, were the first to receive the final voters register from the EC as of November 21, 2012, one week after the Interparty Advisory Committee (IPAC) meeting held on November 14, 2012.”
“One must mention that the preparation of the paper or hard copy version of the final voters register comprising 26,002 polling stations was a mammoth exercise and some of the smaller parties are to yet collect, from the premises of the second respondent, the huge stack of paper that awaited them,” the EC maintained.
The statement denied the petitioners claims that the total number of registered voters in the presidential election exceeded that of registered voters for the parliamentary elections by 127,210 and held that the same register was used for both the presidential and parliamentary elections
It said in a “mischievous attempt” to buttress baseless accusations made by them to the media, the petitioners deliberately used an erroneous figure of 14,158,880 instead of 10,995,262 as the total number of votes cast in favour of the contesting presidential candidates among others.
In response to the petitioners claim that an “invisible sleight of hand, which transmogrified the total number of registered voters from 14,031,680 to 14,158,890, remained inexplicable to date; the EC said, “the second respondent says that the genuine error made by it with regard to the total number of registered voters is fully explained …,and therefore, cannot be by any stretch of imagination be described as a transmogrification.”
The EC further held that in a stern but a lighter note that, the Farlex Dictionary describes transmogrification, “as the process of complete and usually extreme or grotesque change from one state or form to another; the transmogrification of a prince to a porcupine.”
It argued that it was important to recall that, “in both the presidential and parliamentary elections, at each polling station, representatives of the candidates are present, and verification and voting are carried out in public view.”
“Furthermore, immediately after the close of the poll, votes cast are counted in the full glare of the public and are recorded and are announced to the public. It is to be noted that agents have the right to ask for a recount of the votes or to refuse to sign the Declaration Form and give their reasons for the refusal.”
The EC has attached exhibits to prove its claim that the elections were held on a clean sheet and results declared were accurate and credible.
All is set
All is set for hearing of the substantive petition barring any last minute hiccup. This follows the filing of the necessary issues by the parties in the case.
The Registrar of the Supreme Court is expected to communicate a date to parties in the case in the next few days.