Election is the act of electing candidates to represent the people of a given country in the Parliament, the executive and possibly into the other arms of government as stipulated in the Constitution of that particular country. For example, in United States, judges of the lower courts are elected.
Stages of Elections – Electoral Process
The conduct of elections usually follows the stages itemized below;
Formulation of Electoral Act
The electoral rules and regulations are usually drafted by government or the electoral commission and passed into law by the legislature. The law guides the conduct of elections. The provisions of the constitution, however, supersede the electoral law.
Establishment of Electoral Commission
The electoral commission is the body established by government to conduct elections in a country. In some countries, such as France and the Netherlands, there is only one central Electoral Commission whereas in the United States, electoral matters are left to county or to local authorities. In some countries, each state or region has an Electoral Commission, which handles local/regional government elections.
Delimitation of Constituencies
The Electoral Commission arranges to divide the country into constituencies. The criteria for the delimitation of constituencies are usually specified in the constitution or the electoral law. But gerrymandering should be avoided.
Registration of Voters
The Electoral Commission compiles a register containing the names of people who are qualified to vote. The register contains the names of those who are qualified to vote in a particular election and the constituencies in which they are to vote. The register is revised from time to time in order to include the names of newly qualified citizens and strike of the names of deceased voters.
Registration of Political Parties
Political parties are registered on a continuous basis by the Electoral Commission. The rules for registration of parties is vary from country to country. The Ghana’s electoral commission, for example, registers only party symbols.
Registration of Candidates
The Electoral Commission registers candidates who are qualified to participate in the elections.
Appointment of Electoral Officials
In some countries, like Nigeria, the commission recruits a large number of ad-hoc staff who assist it in conducting elections. They include Returning Officers, Presiding Officers, and Polling Officers.
Publication of Voters Card
It is the responsibility of the electoral commission to publish and display the electoral register before the election.
Establishment of Polling Stations
The electoral commission established polling stations and publicize their locations.
The Electoral Commission fixes dates for the elections after due consultation with the government and parties. Voting is usually done during daytime and in the presence of party agents. On the day of the election, the voter enters the polling station and identifies his name in the voters register. He’s been given a ballot paper which he marks and deposits in the ballot box. The voter’s thumb is usually marked with indelible ink to prevent double voting.
Counting of votes is done by the Presiding Officer and his polling assistants in the presence of party agents. The results are then filled into certain official forms which should be endorsed by the Party agents.
Collation And Announcement of Results
Results from the various constituencies are collated at a specially designated venue. The final results are then announced by the electoral commissioner who is usually the only person authorised to do so.