A suit over the special voting exercise in the lead up to the December 7 polls has now taken centre stage at the Supreme Court, barely 24 hours after the court had put to rest the numerous suits over the disqualification of 12 presidential aspirants.
At yesterday’s hearing of the suit, the apex court directed the legal teams of the Electoral Commission (EC) and the three individuals who filed the suit to file their memorandum of agreed issues by the close of today.
The two parties will also make their oral submissions before the court today.
That was to expedite the case because “time is of the essence”, as stated by the President of the five-member panel hearing the case, Mr Justice William Atuguba.
Other members of the panel are Mr Justice Jones Dotse, Mr Justice Anin Yeboah, Mr Justice Paul Baffoe-Bonnie and Mr Justice A.A. Benin.
Special voting is a special dispensation under our electoral laws that allows registered voters who will not be able to present themselves at their polling stations on voting day as a result of the roles they will play in the elections to vote on a date before the rest of the electorate vote on the date set for the elections.
The category of people who are allowed to do special voting are security personnel, officials of the EC and journalists.
The suit challenging the constitutionality of the rules governing the exercise was initiated by Dr Kwame Amoako Tuffour, 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.
They are also seeking a declaration that upon a true and proper interpretation of Article 49 of the Constitution of the Republic of Ghana, 1992, and Section 13 of the Representation of the People Law, 1992, PNDCL 284, the ballots to be cast pursuant to Regulation 23 (1), (2), (3)(,(4),(5),(6),(7),(8),(9) and (10) of the Public Elections Regulations, 2016, C.I. 94 by special voters in the December 2016 presidential and parliamentary elections ought to be counted and announced there and then on the date(s) of the special voting by the presiding officers before communicating same to the returning officer.
The plaintiffs are further seeking an order striking down Regulation 23 (11) of the Public Elections Regulations, 2016, C.I. 94, as being inconsistent with Article 49 (2), (3) (a) and (b) of the Constitution and Section 13 of the Representation of the People Law, 1992, PNDCL 284.
Litany of suits
Most aspects of this year’s elections have been plagued with legal actions.
The suits bordered on the eligibility of people who registered with National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) cards, political parties having access to the collation sheets and the EC’s decision to charge presidential and parliamentary aspirants GHc50,000 and GHc10,000, respectively, as filing fees.
Others had to do with the EC’s disqualification of 12 presidential aspirants and the enforcement of the Political Parties Law.