Guyana Politics: GECOM Chair says… 20,000-plus unverified registrants will be allowed to vote

GECOM Chair, Justice Claudette Singh

Persons who have not collected their identification cards from the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) need not worry about being left out of the March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections. They will still be allowed to vote.

Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Chair, Justice Claudette Singh S.C. sat down with Kaieteur Radio yesterday, and provided clarity on this matter that had left many wondering whether they would be disenfranchised.         

What was being posed to the media by several Commissioners at GECOM was that persons who did not uplift their identification cards since 2008, or as late as last year, would be removed from the list and miss the opportunity to vote in 2020.

But Justice Singh dispelled the misconception. She said that the unverified registrants will have their names published in a list, supplementing the Official List of Electors (OLE), adding that if they show up at the polling station, they would be allowed to vote. This would be, however, on the condition that they show up with some form of identification, such as a passport.

The People’s Progressive Party (PPP) and the Commissioners aligned with it, had raised concerns about people being disenfranchised. They had also posited that there was an irony in Justice Singh making a decision to remove names from the OLE, when it was she who had ruled that it was not necessary to produce ID cards to vote.

During yesterday’s interview, Justice Singh said that the issue is not about the ID cards, but about the fact that persons didn’t collect them.

Further, she said that persons don’t have to collect the cards, but that they just have to claim their identities. It is important to note that the registrants’ names will not be removed from the National Register of Registrants Database (NRRDB).

Just in case those persons still want their names to be on the OLE, the Chair has made provisions for that.
The 20,000+ names will be published in the four daily newspapers very soon. They would also receive a notice, by way of mail. From the first day of publication, those persons will be given 21 days to claim their identities. If they do, their names would be moved from the supplementary list to the OLE.

The Chair was keen to note that it is not the intention of GECOM to disenfranchise anyone, despite what has been said otherwise, because she is very mindful of anybody being disenfranchised.

PPP likely to support GECOM compromise on listing registrants who haven’t uplifted ID cards

Chief Elections Officer- Keith Lowenfield

Bharrat Jagdeo on Thursday hinted that his party is likely to support the Guyana Elections Commission’s (GECOM) creation of a supplementary voters’ list of more than 20-thousand persons who have not collected their national identification cards.

“I gather that there is a compromise that will ensure enhanced verification but not remove people’s names from the voters’ list or remove their right to vote,” he told a news conference.

He made known his position one day after a proposed notice by Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield surfaced, stating that if those persons do not collect their cards by November 27, their names will be placed on a supplementary list. “I think we may be able to move forward in relation to that issue without causing Guyanese to lose their franchise which is crucial to us,” he said.

The Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield is expected to say in the newspaper notice this weekend that on elections day,  registrants will be allowed to vote only if they verify their identification by producing a Guyana-issued birth certificate, a certificate of registration, a valid Guyana passport, a naturalisation certificate, or an adoption certificate.

Mr. Jagdeo says once the method does not open up the possibility of the elections being challenged, the PPP will support it. Noting that the PPP has debated the matter but is yet to come up with a formal position, the PPP General Secretary said his party was likely to support the  system that would be put in place “once it is legal and it cannot be the source of a petition” similar to the challenge of the validity of the 1997 general elections although both parties had agreed to use voter identification cards.

Jagdeo has been encouraging overseas-based supporters to return to Guyana and vote in the March 2, 2020 general elections.

The Chief Elections Officer says those whose names will be put on the supplemental list will not be barred from voting. “On elections day, however, you would be allowed to vote provided your identification is verified by producing” a Guyana-issued birth certificate, a certificate of registration, a valid Guyana passport, a naturalisation certificate, or an adoption certificate.

Under Lowenfield’s hand and dated November 5, 2019, the GECOM notice is expected to say it is giving registrants until November 27, to go to any  GECOM office serving their area to uplift their ID cards.

Elections Commissioner, Vincent Alexander is on record as saying more than 20,000 identification cards dating back from 2008 to last year’s registration cycle have not been collected.

Lowenfield is expected to state in the newspaper notice that if those persons do not collect their card, this “will result in your names being removed from the Official List of Electors (OLE) and placed on another list which would be supplemental to the Official List of Electors.”

Lowenfield is expected to inform registrants that although their names may be removed from the voters’ list to a supplemental list, “your registration records in the National Register of Registrants (NRR) will not be cancelled.”

The High Court ruled in August  that it would be unconstitutional for the names of persons to be removed from the NRR or for a new NRR to be replaced by a fresh list out of a house-to-house registration process.

 

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