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Source: Daily Graphic Ghana - The Supreme Court yesterday descended heavily on the six commissioners of the Electoral Commission (EC) for disrespecting the authority of the court by failing to appear before it in a suit bordering on the constitutionality of the special voting exercise. 
For two consecutive days, none of the commissioners or a designated official of the EC showed up in the courtroom during the hearing of a legal action challenging the rules governing the special voting exercise in this year’s election.

In view of the absence of the EC officials, certain clarifications on the exercise demanded by the court were not properly addressed.

The clarifications bordered on the duties of the returning officer in the presidential election during the special voting exercise and the polling stations where the special voting will take place.

Other questions asked by the court were whether there was any other country apart from Ghana that conducted special voting, where the votes cast during the exercise would be declared and the assurance that the votes would be kept in a place where they could not be tampered with.

Unfortunately for the EC, its lawyer, Mr Sean Poku, could not provide adequate answers to these questions, a situation that made the justices of the apex court demand why no official of the EC had shown up in court.

The seven-member panel, presided over by Mr Justice William Atuguba, rebuked the commission, describing its conduct as “disrespectful”.

Other members of the panel were Mr Justice Jones Dotse, Mr Justice Anin Yeboah, Mr Justice Paul Baffoe-Bonnie, Mr Justice A.A. Benin, Mr Justice Yaw Appau and Mr Justice Gabriel Pwamang.

According to the court, the EC should have at least allowed one of the six commissioners to attend the court proceedings out of respect for the court and because the suit was a very “important constitutional matter”.

“This is a mark of sheer disrespect for the highest court of the land. At least a director or one of the commissioners should have been in this courtroom”, it said.

Judgement

Meanwhile, the court will, on Monday, November 14, 2016, give its judgement on the suit.

It fixed the date yesterday after the legal teams of the EC and the three individuals who initiated the suit had made their oral submissions.

Practicality

Counsel for the plaintiffs, Mr Egbert Faibille Jnr, in his submission, stated that the law that made room for special voting was not in accordance with Article 49 of the 1992 Constitution, which states that votes ought to be counted and declared immediately after the polls.

Mr Justice Dotse asked counsel if, apart from the constitutional inconsistency, there was anything practically wrong with the special voting exercise.

Mr Faibille answered that it was possible that the votes cast during the exercise could be tampered with and that would not reflect the true wishes of the voters.

“I am not challenging the principle of special voting but rather its module,” he said.

EC’s argument

Counsel for the EC, Mr Poku, in his submission, was of the view that counting the votes and declaring the results on the day that the special voting was conducted would erode confidence in the elections and have a negative impact on the polls.

That, he said, was because those allowed to vote during special voting were EC officials, security personnel, journalists and other identifiable groups who helped in the organisation of the elections. 

Suit

The suit challenging the constitutionality of the rules governing the exercise was initiated by Dr Kwame Amoako Tuffuor, a retired lecturer; Benjamin Arthur, an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) practitioner, and Adreba Abrefa Damoa, a pensioner.

They are arguing that Constitutional Instrument (C.I.) 94, which states that special voting ballot boxes will be sealed to be opened on close of voting on Election Day for counting, was unconstitutional.

The plaintiffs are, accordingly, invoking the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court to declare that upon a true and proper interpretation of Article 49 of the 1992 Constitution, ‘special voting’, as provided for by Regulation 23 of the Public Elections Regulations, 2016, C.I. 94, is a part of public elections.
 


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