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Volume 478: debated on Wednesday 25 October 1950

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asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what steps it is proposed to take to prevent impersonation and intimidation at the forthcoming Gold Coast elections; and if he will consider the possibility of arranging for observers to be sent from this country as was done in the case of the Greek elections where the possibility of malpractices was feared.

I am satisfied that the greatest care is being taken to guard against malpractice of any kind; and, with the hon. Member's permission, I will circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT a detailed account of the steps taken.

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that of every 10 people who go to the polling booths nine will not have the faintest idea of what is printed on the voting paper? Can the right hon. Gentleman guarantee that in every polling booth there will be at least one literate polling clerk and one literate policeman on duty throughout the whole of the polling day?

The steps that are being taken to prevent any malpractice and to ensure that this is a fair, democratic election are set out in the reply which I am circulating in the OFFICIAL REPORT. It is very long, but in view of the statements that have been made, from which I have felt compelled to dissociate myself, I hope that hon. Members in all parts of the House will read the statement when it appears in the OFFICIAL REPORT tomorrow. They will see the very careful steps which have been taken to ensure that the election is fair.

Will the statement include some details as to how, in the absence of birth certificates, it is possible to ensure that voters are 21 years of age or over?

That is one of the problems, and I believe the reply contains a statement about that. If not, I will see that it is sent to the hon. Member.

Has the right hon. Gentleman seen a leaflet issued by the People's Convention Party, which is open to the interpretation that it is urging boys and girls under 21 to say that they are 21 and so get on the register?

Following is the reply:

Under the new Constitution, the Legislative Assembly will consist of 84 members. Of these 38 will be elected by direct or indirect election based on popular franchise; the remainder being elected by traditional bodies, or traditional bodies enlarged by a system of nomination or by the Chambers of Commerce and Mines. There will also be three official members.

Of the 38 elected members, five will be elected by direct election in the four municipalities and 33 will be elected by electoral colleges which will themselves be elected by primary elections in the rural constituencies. The question of electoral procedure to be adopted at all these elections has been the subject of a Select Committee of Legislative Council which has recommended the following arrangements, on which the electoral regulations will be based.

  • (a) In the case of the municipal elections the voter will mark his ballot paper in secret in a separate compartment and will then place the paper into one ballot box in the presence of others.
  • (b) In the primary elections for the rural constituencies there will be separate boxes for each candidate behind a screen or in a separate room, each being marked with a symbol or colour allotted to each candidate. The voter will place his paper in the box representing the candidate for whom he wishes to vote.
  • (c) In the electoral colleges the methods of voting will be the same as in the municipal elections. Thus in all these elections the secrecy of the ballot will be observed and the Committee's recommendations lay down a number of additional precautions in matters of detail to ensure absolute secrecy.
  • With regard to impersonation, ample provision is made for candidates and their polling and counting agents to be present at all times, not only to challenge possible personators but to ensure that everything is done in accordance with the regulations. It is laid down that if a polling agent challenges an applicant for a ballot paper of personation and undertakes to substantiate the charge in a court of law, the presiding officer shall direct the applicant to be arrested. In addition each voter will be required to have his left thumb pressed upon a pad impregnated with ink before he leaves the polling station on the day of election.

    The organisation of the elections is being given first priority by the Gold Coast Government and all available resources are being mobilised. This is being accompanied by an intensive propaganda campaign by means of the Press, pamphlets, mobile vans, wireless and gramophone records in the vernacular to make clear to the electorate the procedure being adopted.

    The would-be voter must satisfy the registration officer that he or she is 21 years of age, the onus of proof being on the applicant. It is provided that this may be done by a birth or baptismal certificate or by showing that levy has been paid for three years, or in some other way. Registration officers will normally be the District Commissioner of the area, and the assistant registration officers may be Government officers, local government officers, teachers or other persons of standing in the community.