IEA Proposes Recruitment Of Qualified Election Officials

The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) has urged the Electoral Commission (EC) to recruit highly trained people to serve as election officials and to punish those who act negligently to undermine the electoral process. The call by the IEA forms part its project for electoral reforms, under the Ghana Political Parties Programme (GPPP) which comprises political parties with representation in Parliament as well as those with no representation. Dr Ransford Gyampo, a Senior Research Fellow at IEA and Coordinator of GPPP, said election officials such as Presiding Officers, Polling Assistants and Returning Officers played very crucial roles in the credibility of the electoral process as well as the acceptance of election results. He said the credibility of the poll is guaranteed when election officials performed efficiently, but incompetence, negligence on the part of these officials undermined the country’s electoral process. “In the nation’s drive towards democratic maturity and quest for credible, transparent and acceptable elections, there is the need for a rethink of the caliber of people recruited as election officials,” he said “As a fledgling democracy, it is imperative that we explicitly provide in our electoral regulations some minimum educational qualifications for those who apply to be engaged as election officials.” Dr Gyampo said it was imperative for the EC to review the standard for recruiting officials for voter registration exercises and other election duties. He said the regulations should also provide a minimum period for the training of the election and registration officials before they are assigned duties. He said voter education should be intensified such that voters would take advantage of the exhibition of names of proposed election officials and object to those that they know to be bias or incompetent. “The electoral regulations should also be reviewed and provision made to punish elections officials who perform their duties negligently,” Dr Gyampo said. The current regulations provide for election officials to take an oath administered by the district election officer before embarking on their duties but the IEA recommend that the oath be administered by the district magistrate to bring its effect forcefully to the officials and any act of omission or commission that flouts this oath should attract severe punishment including prison sentences. He said knowing the thorough details of the task of an election official as well as the consequences likely to be suffered for negligence and dereliction of duties would help in ensuring that only competent and responsible people apply for jobs as election officials.