Ghanaian elections have been relatively peaceful for decades. But in 2012, the country saw its most disputed elections in two decades. What is worse, the alleged irregularities were showcased on live TV for all Ghanaians to see, courtesy of a decision by the Ghanaian Opposition to challenge the results of the elections in the Ghanaian Supreme Court.

Some have wondered whether the profusion of recorded irregularities were merely the effect of the additional scrutiny enabled by the legal process, but few have bothered to look into the data for hints of another theory.

In the 2008 elections, turnout in the country was a little less than 70% and the average number of voters per polling station was 376. There was no biometric based voter verification. Average voting time is estimated at about 5.5 minutes. The lower rate of urbanisation meant that the skew of polling stations with more than 1000 voters was, say β.

Fast forward to 2012, the turnout had turboed to 80%, and the average number of voters per polling station was now 432. The addition of biometrics to PVT did not only imply increased voting time but it added another layer on top (i.e. if biometric fails, switch to manual), with the combined effect that voting time is estimated to have hit 10 minutes. The overall impact was thus not a mere 30% in the “time-congestion rate” but a potential 40% due to heightened probability of conflict. The perverse outcome was less time for administrative activities such as filling forms properly etc.

In the wake of these problems the Electoral Commission (EC) resolved to increase polling stations to 34,000. This was later revised to 30,000. And finally 29,000. In fact, we currently have a little less than 29000. Meanwhile urbanisation has now hit 54%, the result of a 3.4% annual positive rate change. β must now be at least (β + 0.4β).

Should we see a continued growth in the turnout rate, to say 85%. Then the overall increase in this variable we are calling the “time-congestion factor” should be at least 60% compared to 2004 levels, meaning that we cannot expect a higher quality election than what was observed in 2012. Simple.

At this stage, it seems the best hope for a relatively congestion-free polls in Ghana, and therefore for fewer irregularities overall, is for a lower growth in turnout rate plus a higher voter arrivals rate in the early half of the day on December 7th.