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From the Editor

Welcome to the maiden edition of The Election Management Newsletter, a quarterly e-newsletter from the Secretariat of the Association of African Electoral Authorities.
The Election Management Newsletter is dedicated to election management in Africa. It will provide you with updates, news, views, and insights on elections and election management, all from the perspectives of the very institutions, personalities, and departments whose role it is to manage elections in African countries.

Welcome to the world of Africa’s Election Management Bodies!
Many questions, dilemmas, and considerations confront Election Management Bodies (EMBs) in Africa as they administer elections on the landscape of developing democracies. But as they navigate this terrain, they learn many lessons. They innovate best practices. They create resources.

EMBs in Africa today are a repository of rich lessons, best practices, and resources! Through the Election Management Journal, we highlight their success stories and their inspirational insights, and we document their learning and share with you.
In this maiden edition, themed, Managing Elections in a time of COVID, we explore the crucial decisions EMBs faced as the Covid-19 virus swept across Africa.
To hold elections or not to hold elections!

African countries have had the curious experience of a less devastating wave of the Covid-19 pandemic than was feared or predicted. And yet, the continent did experience the deadly grip of the virus. Precious lives were lost. Lockdowns weighed a heavy economic toll. Public health and safety lay in the decisions of governments and public institutions.
Do you go ahead with elections when the country, and indeed the entire globe, is on lockdown? When the global supply chain of elections materials has come to a grinding halt. When air, sea, and land ports have all been shut?

Worse still, when facing a novelle virus whose characteristics and behavior are as yet unknown and hard to predict, beyond its capacity to spread swiftly from human to human.
EMBs whose general elections were scheduled for the years 2020 and 2021 were confronted with the decision whether to re-schedule them on account of the pandemic.
How should they weigh the risk to public health and safety in holding elections? Elections could turn into super-spreader events. But what would be the implications of not holding elections on schedule?

Our Perspectives Column visits the offices of the Electoral Commission of Ghana to hear the story of how Ghana held elections in 2020, at the height of the pandemic, successfully, and without the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

The 2020 elections in Ghana proved that the story of elections in Africa can be an inspiration. Read the exclusive feature on the Ghana 2020 elections story and gather lessons shared by the Chairperson of the Ghana Electoral Commission, Mrs. Jean Mensa.
Do you know which elections are due in the second and third quarters of 2022? Scroll down to Elections Africa at a Glance and get informed on elections in African countries over the next 6 months.

Finally, Updates from the Secretariat provides you all you need to know about the AAEA.
Dear reader, be sure to look out for the next edition of The Election Management Newsletter and keep reading. Send your comments, questions, and feedback on our articles. It may seem a long road, but with learning, sharing, and accountability across EMBs, we will see free, fair, and credible elections rising on our continent, country by country, election by election!
I will be here on this page, talking about them, and I hope you will be too.

The Editor
MAIDEN EDITION

Managing Elections in a Time of Covid

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PERSPECTIVES COLUMN

An exclusive feature on the Ghana 2020 elections story

For Ghana, the decision to hold presidential and parliamentary elections at the height of the global pandemic was both simple and tough.
Ghana’s Constitution does not provide for the postponement of general elections from the 7th of December. Not holding elections on that date would plunge the nation into a crisis that was simply not provided for in the country’s Constitution.
As Mrs. Jean Mensa Ghana’s Electoral Commission Chairperson, told us from her desk at the Commission,

“We would have had a Constitutional crisis on our hands. Our Constitution does not make room for that. In a sense, we had no choice…
“So, we pressed forward and held the elections. We listened to what the public health experts were saying and realized that there were ways we could contain the spread of the virus while conducting elections. There were simple health protocols, which, if we enforced, would prevent a spread of the virus…
“Yes, there was strong opposition to our decision. Many voices were raised in protest across the body politic. It was a period of extreme public anxiety, as you know. But we knew what the health protocols were, and we were convinced that we could enforce them to protect public health while carrying out the elections…
“We used the lockdown period to do an immense amount of groundwork. My team and I were working around the clock. We met practically every day on Zoom, preparing for the elections.”

Defying the odds, therefore, the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission of Ghana, Mrs. Jean Mensa, led the Commission boldly, and yet with extreme caution and care, to carry out a nation-wide Voter Registration Exercise in July 2020 and hold presidential and parliamentary elections on December 7, 2020.



Here is what happened on the day…

Voting started at 7am on the 7th of December 2020 in Ghana. Electoral officials and security agents began arriving at polling stations from 5am in order to complete setting up for the elections by 6.30am.

Most electoral officers were met with milling crowds of voters, some of whom had arrived at the centers from as early as 3am. For the most part, the crowds had begun self-organizing, and as with previous elections, some members of the queues had already begun attempts at jumping the queues. All were anxious to vote as early as possible and return home or to work. Memories of long, chaotic, and frustrating waits during previous voting exercises were uppermost in voters’ minds. Impatience was in the air.

There were fears of the COVID-19 virus to worry about too. Standing too far from the next person in the queue risked your being crossed by a less COVID-conscious voter; but standing too close could mean exposing yourself to the virus. At some centers, the presence of security operatives heightened apprehensions. Would there be violence? Fear and anxiety were in the air.

However, as electoral officers completed setting up their tables and equipment, voters noticed a doubling and, in some instances, tripling of the number of polling stations. Local assemblymen and women were working in tandem with electoral
officers and security agents to organize the crowds. Voters found themselves placed in much shorter queues, quickly dissipating their anxieties about a long wait and the risk of the COVID virus. The elderly, the physically challenged, pregnant and nursing mothers were by now seated sedately in separate queues and already going through the voting process. Within a quarter of an hour of the start of voting, some were well on their way to the desk with the pot of indelible ink.

This was starting to look like a voting day with a difference.

And so it was, that like a well-oiled assembly plant, electoral officers carried out the process of directing voters to sanitize their hands; guiding them first to the list of voters; then to the biometric verification table; to the biometric verification process; and then to the voting booths – the presidential election booth, then the parliamentary election booth; and finally, to the inking table. Before they knew it, voters had completed the voting process and were leaving the polling station, bemused somewhat by the anti-climax of a swift, orderly, and uneventful voting process.

By 1pm, at many polling stations, the mill of crowds had receded. Thin trickles of voters passed quietly from one desk to the next. And eager election pundits scanned their social media feeds, searching in vain for sensational electoral challenges to report.

HOW DID GHANA DO IT?

The Electoral Chairperson’s answers were simple… “The order and safety of polling on 7th December 2020 were the culmination of the planning, organizing, procurement and training processes that we carried out ahead of Voting Day...”

THIS IS HOW ...

“By pre-distributing voting material”
We avoided late arrival of electoral materials by pre-distributing ballot papers, ballot boxes, BVD kits and other voting materials as early as 2 weeks to voting day. Voting materials were dispatched to the districts and lodged in holding rooms at the Regional and District police stations.
Before dispatch, packages of ballot papers were allocated to the various districts, in the presence of political party agents. The packaged ballot papers had serial numbers to identify the districts and constituencies they had been allocated to.
Any ballot paper found in a district with a different serial number would be deemed a fake ballot paper.
We sealed all ballot boxes with the Electoral Commission’s seal, in the presence of political party agents before sending them to the holding rooms.

voting
Ensuring that ballot boxes are sealed

“We trained political party agents and first-time voters”
We trained the leaders of political parties during our regular meetings with them, and they, in turn, trained their party agents to play their roles effectively on voting day. We trained election observers and candidates through a cascading system at national, regional and district levels. For the first time, we even held a workshop for first-time voters, targeting the youth.

“Timely start to voting
We started the voting process at 7am, at most polling stations. By 1pm, most polling stations had completed voting. All polling stations remained opened until 5pm, when voting ended.
electorial
Electoral officers on voting day
“Our movement plans ensured our early arrival at polling stations…”
Ahead of voting day, electoral officers coordinated with district security agents to develop movement plans that would ensure that the security agents would pick up the voting materials and arrive at their polling stations by 6.30am.
This ensured that they had all set up and completed the Statement of Polls document by 7am.
“We reduced the voter threshold…”
We avoided lengthy queues and crowding of previous elections by reducing the voter threshold per polling station from 1,500 voters to 749 voters. This meant that not more than 749 voters would vote at a polling station.

We split polling centers into two, three, four, and even as many as eight polling stations. This drastically reduced the queues at each polling station.















“Smooth functioning of BVD kits”
Hardly any of our Biometric Verification Devices (BVD) malfunctioned. Of the 77,244 BVDs deployed to 38,622 polling stations, only 413 BVDs were recorded to have malfunctioned, (representing 0.53%). The facial recognition function of the BVD kits meant that if fingerprints were not recognized, a voter’s facial image could be used for verification.
“Observance of COVID-19 protocols
COVID-19 protocols were observed at the polling stations. Hand-washing basins, thermometer guns, sanitizers and alcohol-based wipes were all available at the polling stations. BVD kits were cleaned with the wipes after each use.
At some stations, COVID-19 ambassadors helped to keep voters conscious of the need to maintain the required protocols.
covid
COVID ambassador at polling station

Successes achieved by Ghana in the 2020 elections

Through the above measures, Ghana’s 2020 Elections achieved several firsts!
First, a historic reduction in cost!
  • A 41% reduction in the cost of elections against 2016 election!
  • Decrease in cost per voter from US$13.00 in 2016 to US$7.70!
  • Realization of savings of US$90million to the Government of Ghana against the cost of elections in 2016!
  • For the first time in its history, Ghana’s elections had no funding from donors!
Amazingly, the Commission decreased the cost of elections notwithstanding having increased the number of polling stations by 10,000; increased the number of temporary elections staff by 87,012 over 2016 temporary staff; procured substantial quantities of Personal Protective Equipment and supplies in adherence to COVID-19 protocols; and despite having paid full taxes on all imported and local materials and goods for the elections, unlike in 2016 elections.
Cost of election was reduced despite the added costs & setbacks from COVID-19!
The reduction in cost was achieved notwithstanding that the Commission carried out the entire electoral process in
recently released data from the National Population Census of Ghana, this percentage reflects the demographic of Ghanaians over 18 years. It further meets international standards for registration of voters.
98% of electoral materials were procured through competitive bidding!
The Commission procured practically all electoral materials through competitive bidding. From the procurement of complex equipment such as the Biometric Verification Management Solution (BVMS), to stationary such as pens and paper.
Through this approach, 98% of the Commission’s equipment and materials for the 2020 Elections were procured

just six months, owing to global COVID-19 restrictions, which severely set back its planned Elections Timetable.
The Commission’s cost savings were realized at no expense to the integrity of the electoral process. Every mandated electoral process was caried out and completed ahead of the Elections.
A comprehensive Voters Register was compiled in just 38 days!
In spite of fears and projection of a low turnout as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Electoral Commission of Ghana compiled an entirely new Biometric Voters Register in 38 days only, successfully registering over 17 million eligible Ghanaians in that short period of time and exceeding its own target of 15 million registrants. The new Voters Register captured facial features in addition to fingerprints, significantly reducing the avenues for voters to be verified manually on election day.
High turnout for Voter registration!
Notwithstanding predictions of a low turnout for the voter registration, citizens turned out in extremely high numbers, right from the first day of the voter registration exercise. A total of 17,027,641 Ghanaians were registered, representing 55.2% of the population. By
through competitive bidding, the exception being the printing of ballot papers, which, for reasons of security, was the only cost item where Restricted Tendering was adopted.
Tensions were reduced significantly with voting time slashed from 10 - 12 minutes per voter to 3 - 5 minutes and with declaration of results within 48 hours!
On voting day, the Commission significantly reduced the time it took a voter to vote. And for the first time in Ghana’s history, there were no long queues, no frustrated crowds, and no disgruntled voters on voting day. By 1pm, 70% of polling stations had completed voting, long before the end of the polls at 5pm.


jean mensa new1
Jean Mensa (Electoral Commission of Ghana)

UPCOMING ELECTIONS AT A GLANCE


2022
2nd and 3rd Quarters

MAY

The Gambia National Assembly & Local Elections

JULY

Republic of the Congo.
National Assembly Elections

Senegal
National Assembly

AUGUST

Kenya
Presidential, National Assembly, Senate, County Assemblies and Local

Angola
Presidential, National Assembly & Local



SEPTEMBER

Chad
National Assembly

FROM THE SECRETARIAT

About the AAEA
The Association of African Election Authorities is a peer-to-peer network of Heads of Election Management Bodies (EMBs) of African countries. The Association was formed in 1996. It currently comprises 45 members.

The AAEA Secretariat is hosted by the Election Commission of Ghana.
Vision
The vision of the AAEA is of the African continent established as a beacon of democracy where national electoral processes preserve, provide for, and protect the right of citizens to free, fair, and peaceful elections.

The AAEA therefore envisions itself as a platform of peers, where, through cross-learning, information dissemination, resource-sharing, and technical assistance, EMBs in Africa are supported, challenged, and resourced to administer elections in their countries professionally, fairly, and cost-effectively.
Mission Statement
The AAEA exists to foster cross-learning, information-dissemination, resource-sharing, and technical assistance across Elections Management Bodies (EMBs) in Africa; build capacities of member EMBs to administer free and fair elections in their respective countries; hold each other accountable to best practice in elections management; and wield an influential, global voice on elections.

AAEA EVENTS

AAEA Executive Committee Meeting
After a break of two years, owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, the AAEA will hold an Executive Committee meeting in May 2022, in Accra. The two-day meeting will be attended by the 22-member committee of the Executive Committee.

AAEA MEMBERS

benin
botswana
burkina
frc
cameroon
chad
comoros
cote divoire
ec
ethiopia
gambia
guinea
kenya
lesotho
liberia
madagascar
malawi
mali
mauritania
mozambique
namibia
nigeria
rwanda
sadan
sao tome
senegal
seychelles
sierra leone
south sudan
southafrica
tanzania
togo
Tunisia
uganda
zambia
zanzibar
zimbabwe

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