Ballot paper more sensitive than pink sheet - Afari-Gyan declares

BY: Samuel K. Obour

Dr Kwadwo Afari-GyanThe Chairman of the Electoral Commission (EC), Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, yesterday told the Supreme Court that ballot papers were more sensitive than pink sheets.

Unless a pink sheet had been filled up, he said, it was not a sensitive material, but a ballot paper was because if it fell into the wrong hands, it could compromise the whole election process.

‘’A pink sheet without any thing written on it is not a sensitive material. Once it has been used for an election, the pink sheet becomes sensitive,” he explained.

He also said a pink sheet without a polling station code number written on it was not a sensitive material.

The witness said ballot papers became sensitive from the time of their printing, while a ballot box was not a sensitive material until it was in use during an election.

In the course of continuing his grilling of the EC boss, the lead counsel for the petitioners in the ongoing presidential election petition, Mr Phillip Addison, had to delve deep into his knack for asking questions in order to get the EC boss to answer questions put to him.

Counsel for the Electoral Commission (EC), Mr James Quashie-Idun, persistently intervened that the witness was being harassed by counsel when Mr Addison repeatedly asked the witness to answer the questions put to him.

Mr Addison confronted the witness on the issue of pink sheets.

Asked whether the numbers on the pink sheets used in the election were generated by the commission, witness replied that the printers did not seek the consent of the commission in putting the numbers on the pink sheets.

The printing of the numbers, Dr Afari-Gyan explained, came at an extra cost to the EC but the printers gave the commission a composite charge to print the sheets.

The witness said the pink sheet numbers were for checking the quantity of papers that had been printed and also indicated that the numbers were for counting purposes.

He said the pink sheets were printed abroad because the local companies that bid for the job did not have the capacity to do that job, saying that after sourcing for the job, the local companies gave it to their foreign counterparts to print.

He said he did not know in which country the pink sheets were printed, saying, “I know for a fact that they were printed abroad. I did not think it was important to find out where they were being printed.’’

The witness, who at certain stages of proceedings said he had lost track of the questions put to him, said the political parties were not informed about the printing of the pink sheets abroad because the EC thought they were not supposed to be informed about everything.

  When the witness was given a copy of a pink sheets to identify, Dr Afari-Gyan initially said it did not look like a pink sheet, but follow-up questions elicited the response that it was, indeed, a pink sheet.

 The witness agreed with counsel that the first set of 27,000 pink sheets printed was unique to each polling station.

He, however, disagreed that if the EC had expected additional names of other candidates, it would have left blank spaces on the other pink sheets.

Dr Afari-Gyan said the commission did not generate the numbers on the pink sheets, nor did it tell the printer how to begin the numbering.

Earlier, the witness had admitted having identified 15 double registrations in the foreign registration of Ghanaians, adding that that came to his attention after the petition.

Asked whether he did anything about the situation, he said he had been informed that the voters register that the EC gave to the political parties did not contain duplicated names.

The issue of one man one vote came up again, during which the witness said the number of voters who were verified by their faces only was more than 70,000.

Mr Addison asked the witness whether the voters register that the EC gave to the NPP was different from that given to the NDC, but lead counsel for the NDC, Mr Tsatsu Tsikata, objected, saying counsel was mistaken.

Similarly, Mr Quashie-Idun intervened and indicated that the witness was being misled by counsel.

But those interjections were ignored by the bench.

The witness indicated that the voters register was dynamic and that the figures could go up anytime a new voter was registered.

He said the voter list of 14,31,680 relied on by the EC included the more than 70,000 voters who were verified by faces only.

He said a person would have to undergo verification on the day of election, whether he was verified by face only or by fingerprint during the registration exercise.

Dr Afari-Gyan said seven printing houses were engaged to print ballot papers and all the political parties were represented at the printing houses.

The printing houses were Acts Commercial, the Assembly Press, the Buck Press, Checkpoint, Fonstat, Innolink and Yasarko.

He said the political parties were informed about the number of ballot papers in documentations and pledged to produce one such document for the court.

The witness said he did not know the basis for which counsel said of the 11,115 polling stations in contention, there was a difference of 962,888 in the number of registered voters as per the EC’s register and that given to the NPP.

At that stage, counsel for the EC intervened and said there was evidence of duplicated, triplicated and quadruplicated pink sheets and for that matter the question to the witness was unfair.

 In an answer relating to the number of ballot papers that were issued for the 11,115 polling stations, Dr Afari-Gyan said he would not be in a position to say yes or no and that he did not know the number of polling stations involved.

Mr Justice Jones Dotse asked Mr Addison to give the witness the exact polling station quantum so that witness could answer the questions, but counsel replied that the witness had sufficient information.

The witness said he was a registered voter, having registered at the Du Bois Centre in Accra.

Special voting was also another area which generated a back and forth encounter between counsel and the witness.

The witness said some special voting took place at designated polling stations, while others took place at specially designated centres.

He said special voting centres had code numbers, contrary to what counsel had said.

Dr Afari-Gyan said the law recognised two categories of personnel who engaged in special voting, namely, security personnel and election officials who, on election day, would not be able to vote at their polling stations.

At least, he said, there was one special voting centre in every constituency.

The witness said election results relating to the special voting centres were recorded on a pink sheet just like any other result from the polling station and then transferred onto the collation sheet.

He disagreed with counsel that pink sheets had not been mentioned with regard to special voting and that special voting centres were treated in the same way as any other polling station.

The witness was given a collation form to identify, after which he was asked some questions on it.

That was after Mr Quashie-Idun had prematurely raised an objection which compelled Mr Justice Anin Yeboah to ask that the EC counsel wait until the document had been tendered.

Mr Justice William Atuguba also said the questions were allowed because they were general in nature.

Eventually, Dr Afari-Gyan admitted that there was no code number on the collation form for special voting centres, as asserted by counsel.

When counsel asked the witness to show from the collation form, after reading an election guide, where the pink sheet had to be filled in respect of special voting,  counsel for the EC said the witness had already answered the question.

But in response, the witness said the presiding officer knew what to do on that occasion because it had not been stated in the election guide and that it was part of the functions of the presiding officers.

‘’We cannot give them permanent codes because they are not part of the existing polling station structures,’’ he said.

By Stephen Sah