Anyone who knows me, really knows me, knows I am very vocal when it comes to issues of governance, politics, elections, etc. This November election was held in the US (my country of residence and citizenship (by choice)), and will be held in December, in Ghana (my homeland).
I have been involved in my own small way, in the electoral processes of both countries. Though my experience in Ghana, trumps (pun intended) that of my US experience. So brace yourselves and be ready to read, because this will be a long post!!
Elections, as many of you know, is “a formal and organized choice by vote of a person for a political office or other position.” – Definitions from Oxford Languages. “An election is a formal group decision-making process by which a population chooses an individual or multiple individuals to hold public office.” – Wikipedia
The first time I became fully aware of elections in Ghana, was in 1992. I was then a 10 year old, living in Keta, Volta Region, Ghana. I heard people talk about voting in the election, for a “yevuvi” (white/mixed child), whose mother was from Keta. They said this “yevuvi” was going to make us proud and bring development to our town, the region and Ghana as a whole; so “we” had to vote for him to win. I had no idea what any of that meant, but there were catchy songs about our “yevuvia” and I sang those songs with gusto!
Same thing happened in 1996, our yevuvia was once again standing for election and he needed our votes once again. I couldn’t tell for sure at the time, if our yevuvia had brought any development to Keta. But we had a good road from Keta township all the way to Savietula and beyond. We had a government hospital and several secondary schools along this good road. We also had light and water. There were a few banks as well, so I assumed he’d done well enough for people to be asked to vote for him again. (Disclaimer: I don’t know if the road, schools, hospital and others were built/done by our yevuvia).
The difference in 1996 was that I was on my way to secondary school and I had seen a few plays on Probity, Integrity and Accountability. That was the fight against corruption theme our yevuvia had been running with during his PNDC era, before the transition to democratic rule in 1992. Those plays helped me understand a little more about governance.
Since this post is about elections, I’ll try as much as possible to to stick to that.
Now in the year 2000, when I was old enough to vote and had gotten a lot of information on voting and my civic rights to vote, I voted for the first time!
It was in the year 2000, that I got introduced to the elections process by my father. He was then the District Electoral Officer for the Berekum District in the then, Bono Ahafo Region of Ghana. Though the 2000 elections was held before I moved to live with my dad in Berekum, I learned and experienced a lot about Ghana’s electoral processes, from him.
The ever inquisitive me, asked him as many questions as I could and my dad, who has always been a “girl child” education promoter, always answered them and even went beyond by teaching me what the process was like. He took me to all the trainings he gave electoral officers, he gave me all the books and materials that were given to them,, so I could learn more. Thankfully, I experienced one of the elections (a by-election), under my father’s tutelage, just before I went to film school.
I volunteered and worked as an election official in both the 2008 and 2012 elections in Ghana. A biometric register was introduced in 2012. This new registration method was successful, although it came with a lot of controversy and doubts.
To help readers, “Ghana elects on national level a head of state, the president, and a legislature. The president is elected for a four-year term by the people. The Parliament of Ghana has 275 members, elected for a four-year term in single-seat constituencies. The presidential election is won by having more than 50% of valid votes cast, whilst the parliamentary elections is won by simple majority, and, as is predicted by Duverger’s law, the voting system has encouraged Ghanaian politics into a two-party system, creating extreme difficulty for anybody attempting to achieve electoral success under any banner other than those of the two dominant parties. Elections have been held every four years since 1992. Presidential and parliamentary elections are held alongside each other, generally on 7 December every four years.” – en.wikipedia.org › wiki › Elections_in_Ghana
So, while Ghana uses the 50% + system, America uses the electoral college system. “In the Electoral College system, each state gets a certain number of electors based on its total number of representatives in Congress. Each elector casts one electoral vote following the general election; there are a total of 538 electoral votes. The candidate that gets more than half (270) wins the election.” – www.usa.gov › election
Before a citizen of a country can vote, they must be registered to do so (I stand corrected).The difference in the registration process in the US and Ghana is like the proverbial oil and water (not the mixing part, just that though both are liquids, they’re totally different from each other).
In Ghana, people go to registration centers on days set aside by the Electoral Commission, to register, when they turn 18 and above. Whereas in the US (per your state laws), you can go to the post office, the BMV (Bureau of Motor Vehicle), your county’s Board of Elections office, at your naturalization ceremony or online. No queues and/or stress, like back home.
In my case, I filled out a voter registration form at my naturalization ceremony. I then got something in the mail a few weeks after, to confirm my registration and voila! In Ghana, I joined a queue, my info was taken when it got to my turn, my finger was dipped in indelible ink (to prevent double registration) and I had to go check if my name was added to the register, when they opened the register for exhibition. I had to join a queue for that too! Whereas here in America, all I had to do was go online to check for my registration. Took me all of 2 minutes (internet speed).
Just like in Ghana, I volunteered to work at the polls on election day. I worked as a machine judge. I was trained both in person and online, for the position. A machine judge’s work is no joke! I had body aches for a day and half after!
I will not bore you with the details of a MJ’s duties. But in summary, the MJ is the one who makes sure all the voting machines and ballot counters are set up and ready for voters on voting day; and helps voters on how to use the voting machines. I’ll add a few pictures of the voting and counting machines at the end of the post.
If I remember correctly, I worked with the register (what is called a Roster Judge here) and as the one who gave the voters, their ballot paper (kind of like the Paper Ballot Judge). It wasn’t as tedious and challenging as working the voting machines!
Though the election was held eight days ago and the media has projected Joe Biden as the president-elect, we’re still waiting for the official results. And with President Donald Trump and the GOP alleging voter fraud in several states, that could take longer! Hopefully, it is all taken care of and announced before inauguration day!
Though there are vast differences in elections between the two countries, I have found one thing they have in common. Accusations of electoral/voter fraud, by either the incumbents or the opposition! Usually from the one who is at the losing end.
I was very excited to take part in the election process in my new country, as I was when I was back home. I am however very drained by how things are turning out. Hopefully you can tell how I voted (oh, I forgot to tell you I voted for my first American election on that day!). Though my preferred candidate was not on the ballot, the candidate I voted for, represents a lot of my political ideology! And I am proud of myself!
I will end this blog post here, even though I have thoughts on how the election has been divided along religious lines. I’ll leave that for another post on my other blog site, http://truetalkandbeyond.wordpress.com.
Looking forward to reading your thoughts on this piece. Till then, peace!