Voter apathy: Would you go, vote blank, if it would be counted?

The dollar has exposed political leadership in Ghana. The National Democratic Congress (NDC) didn’t have a clue and the New Patriotic Party (NPP) in the seat now has been clueless, too.

So far, policies to arrest the devaluation of the cedi have not worked. We are yet to know how this horrifying story will end, as the value of the cedi continues to depreciate almost daily.

In January 2022, about GH¢6 could get you a dollar. Now twice the same amount cannot get you a dollar. That’s how precarious the situation is.

Now social media is awash with videos and quotes from campaign days of candidates Nana Akufo-Addo and Dr Mamudu Bawumia talking about the exchange rates and “the fundamentals of the economy”.

Everywhere you go, Ghanaians are talking about their disappointment in the leadership of this government.

In trotros, offices, queues for waakye, barber shops… everywhere.

And what people add is that NDC would come and do worse and line their pocket so they see voting as a “waste of their time”.

Test

How do we tests through a scientific method to see the level of disappointment in this country?

How do we determine the percentage of disillusioned population in the country without going through any disturbances to the governance architecture?

We have tried coups and we definitely do not want more of it. But this democratic process isn’t yielding the results we desire.

Conversation

A few years back, I had a similar conversation on voter apathy with a former general secretary of the NPP. I told him that a lot more people were unhappy with NPP and would also not want to vote for NDC, possibly for the same reason.

I suggested that it would be good to start looking at the percentage of voters who do not want to bother voting and the significance to our young democracy.

I suggested that I wish I could go to the Supreme Court to compel the Electoral Commission to allow people to put in blank ballots to indicate their displeasure with any of the candidates and have them counted, so we see and have a clear percentage of people who are gradually becoming unhappy with the status quo.

He disagreed. We did not make any progress from that point.

Voter apathy

Later, I had a similar conversation with some leading journalists as well. I explained to him that as far as I was concerned, voter apathy in Ghana should count for something.

It is a serious barometer for the belief in our democratic processes. The more people stay away from this process, the clearer the indication of the loss of faith in our democratic process, as we have it now.

I heard him a few times debating this idea on air unsuccessfully. But that ended there. In the past days, I’ve heard more people saying voting is a waste of time.

Questions

So I have a few questions to ask:

(i) Why would you decide not to vote in the next election?

(ii) Would you agree with going to the polling station to drop in a blank ballot, if it would be counted to signify your displeasure in the leadership of any of the candidates available on the ballot paper?

(iii) What else would that vote signify?

(iv) Would you put in a blank vote, if it would trigger the review of the 1992 Constitution to bring in more meritocratic processes?

Our current jurisprudence on election only recognises showing up at the polling station and casting the ballots correctly. That is called a valid vote. And the current practices indicate the number of valid and invalid ballots and are, therefore, counted.

Anyone else who is unable to vote is considered to be in a null set. But is it really a null set? Do those numbers mean nothing to democratic governance in the country?

Voting is making a choice for various reasons between candidates on the ballot paper that a legal system has enabled.

The choice not to choose is a choice.

The reason why any qualified voter would decide not to choose should not be boxed into an empty set. Those numbers need to be monitored carefully as a barometer for the belief in the ballot box in the country.

The reason for a registered voter deciding not to exercise the right to vote could have a bearing on the stability of this country.

Many laws need to change in order to make democracy worth our time. The Electoral Commission Act, 1993 (Act 451) Section 2 may have to be amended to capture this. That is not the only amendment needed to bring changes to our democratic process.

The Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) was set up in January 2010 under the late President Evans Atta-Mills. By December 2011, the final recommendations were submitted.

The more than 900 pages has so many recommendations that could improve political governance and transparency. For more than a decade, no action has been taken.

The current state of our politics needs to change. We cannot give up on this country. Every page has to be turned to make it better. Would the increasing voter apathy affect the stability of our young democracy? Time will tell. God bless our homeland Ghana and make our nation great and strong.

 

Source: Tony Asare

 

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