Guyana Politics: 650,000+ registered to vote in upcoming elections

 … Former Chief Election Officers of Canada, India, Ghana to advise GECOM

Recent estimates of Guyana’s population tend to place it at 750,000. Sometimes, it hits 800,000 if those doing the assessment are generous. It has not gotten much higher because Guyana’s emigration rate is unusually high.

Photo:  GECOM Public Relations Officer, Yolanda Ward; Chairperson, Justice Claudette Singh and Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield

That’s why it would raise quite an alarm that the Revised List of Electors (RLE) is shaping up to have more than 650,000 eligible voters, calculated based on information shared with the media by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) yesterday. That figure doesn’t even consider new registrants from the House-to-House data, which are likely to add tens of thousands more.       

The Chair, Justice Claudette Singh S.C. held a press conference yesterday at the Commission’s Kingston office, joined by Public Relations Officer (PRO), Yolanda Ward and Chief Elections Officer (CEO), Keith Lowenfield.

It was the first time that the Chair held a press engagement with the full media corps, after appearing on Kaieteur Radio the day before.

During that interview, Justice Singh made it clear, despite certain public utterances about members of the Commission and Secretariat purported to be acting out of line, that she is in control of GECOM.

Speaking on the operational matters of the Secretariat, Lowenfield provided an update on the House-to-House data cross-matching. It is known that the first of two tranches of that data was already returned from the international supplier, Gemalto, who had been awarded the contract to cross-match the data.

Lowenfield said that, of that batch, about 150,000 are duplicated registrations. That means that they already appear in the National Register of Registrants (NRR). As for new registrations, the CEO said that they number 29,082. It should be noted that this figure includes, not just adults, but persons aging from 14 to 17. The second tranche, which is even bigger than the first, is due back soon with the likelihood of adding thousands of new voters to the mix.

On the Claims exercise which recently ended, Lowenfield said that the Secretariat received 6,394 new registrants. That number may change, as he explained that it is subject to cross-matching. The CEO did not, however, disaggregate how many of those transactions were based on the Preliminary List of Electors (PLE) and the House to House data.

The PLE already has a total of 646,625 registrants. The objections received by GECOM are not expected to substantively relieve that list.

The number of unverified registrants has been watered down to 18,124. The names of all those persons, along with their addresses, are published today in this newspaper. An attached order from Lowenfield noted that the publication of the names and the procedure in which it is entrenched is provided for in accordance with a proviso to section 6(6A) of the National Registration Act, Cap 19:08, as amended by Act 14 of 2005.

That act requires all persons whose names are listed in the Schedule attached to this notice to be verified. Those persons are expected to take their birth certificate, certificate of registration of a foreign birth, or valid Guyana passport; and any other supporting documents which may be requested by the registration officer at the GECOM Registration office serving their area. If they fulfill this requirement, their names will appear in a special section, supplementing the Official List of Electors (OLE) on Election Day, while the verified registrants will have their names listed in the main section of the OLE.

Lowenfield provided that 12,079 of the uncollected ID cards were from the 2008 registration cycle, while the two phases of continuous registration in 2018 account for 364 and 1,040 of those uncollected cards.

Singh also said that a folio will be provided for those voters so that the voting process for them is made clear.
Justice Singh yesterday explained that it is necessary for those unverified registrants to be subjected to additional scrutiny because of their unverified status. They appear as 29 separate lists, divided into towns/villages. A disaggregation of those numbers by region is as follows: 1 (313), 2 (548), 3 (2,401), 4 (9,446), 5 (1,094), 6 (3,267), 7 (280), 8 (124), 9 (263), and 10 (776).

A disaggregation of those numbers by town/village goes like this: Mabaruma (140), Port Kaituma (29), Moruca (144), Charity (184), Anna Regina (364), Parika (837), Pouderoyen (809), La Grange (755), Soesdyke (578), Diamond (1,176), South Georgetown – Main (1,305), South Georgetown – Sub (1,231), North Georgetown – Main (950), North Georgetown – Sub (938), Better Hope (858), Coldingen (2,410), Mahaicony (265), Fort Wellington (829), New Amsterdam (1,060), Whim (1,357), Corriverton (850), Bartica (261), Kamarang (19), Paramakatoi (67), Mahdia (57), Lethem (190), Annai (73) and Mackenzie (386).

The political opposition had raised much concern over how the House-to-House data would be used. At present, the Commission has not completely sorted out the merger. But what was made clear at yesterday’s conference by the CEO and the PRO is that the data, during the Claims and Objections exercise, was and is meant to be treated as if it were a supplement to the PLE. That means that persons could make transactions based on that. Ward told Kaieteur News that a clear procedure was set out through which persons could scrutinize the data and communicate their concerns to GECOM.

An alarming number of objections are reported to have come out of region nine so far. During the Opposition Leader’s press conference on Thursday, he had noted that the objections coming out of region nine were in large part filed by Opposition scrutinizers. Jagdeo told Kaieteur News that many of those objections were eventually withdrawn. This is because, he said, most of the objections were to deaths. Hence, GECOM would have to liaise with the General Registrar’s Office (GRO) to have deceased persons removed from the list after their death certificates are verified.

Asked about this yesterday, Lowenfield explained that the reason for those objections has to do with the fact that many persons are not living in the districts in which they are registered.

On the same matter of objections, the political opposition has raised another matter with a claim of a large number of unsubstantiated objections being made by the APNU+AFC coalition in region five. The Opposition claims that GECOM has received over 3000 objections in that region, including almost 500 from the Indigenous settlement, Marakabai in the Mahaicony River.

It also claims that two hearings have been suspended in region five due to lack of supporting evidence from the coalition. It specifically named Carol Joseph as having failed to produce evidence to support the objections she has made.
Efforts to reach Ward and Lowenfield for clarity on this matter were unsuccessful.

Justice Singh told the press that three international advisors have been agreed on, thus far. These include Jean-Pierre Kingsley who has served in Canada as a Chief Elections Officer. The Commonwealth has also promised, Singh said, to send two senior electoral advisors, from Ghana and India. She added that both of them have served as Chief Election Officer in their respective home countries.
On the matter of observers, Justice Singh made it a point that persons criticizing the Commission’s dealings with international observers should know that it is not the responsibility of GECOM to accredit international observers; that is the function of the Executive President. She said that GECOM only accredits local observers. Four of those have already indicated their interest in providing that service, namely the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham), the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU), the Public Service Commission (PSC), and the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI).

Justice Singh told reporters that GECOM is welcoming to international observers, and that the public should have no doubt in their minds that GECOM will do everything it can to produce free, fair and credible elections.

Lowenfield said during yesterday’s press conference that GECOM is currently looking at having 2,350 polling stations. However, that number is a tentative one, depending on whether GECOM decides to use private residences as polling stations as well.
The hiring of polling day staff is complete and they have been trained. Kaieteur News understands that a second set of training will be done to ensure that those persons are well acquainted with polling day procedure.
GECOM has also acquired paraphernalia for use on Election Day, including stationery and other like materials.

GECOM anticipates that about 15 political parties will participate in the March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections.
A recent meeting between A New and United Guyana (ANUG) and the Commission, saw GECOM being told that small parties deserved assistance from them to give all parties a fair and equitable standing in the upcoming elections.

Asked what assistance could be given to small parties by GECOM, Alexander had said that some of them are yet to be properly briefed on what is required of a party, to participate in the electoral process. He added that GECOM can help to make them aware of what is needed.

Justice Singh said yesterday that those parties will be briefed long before Nomination Day on the current protocols. However, GECOM has not yet decided when Nomination Day would be.

Yesterday’s meeting was the first full meeting held by the Chair with the press. She had been urged by the Opposition Leader and the Guyana Press Association (GPA) to make herself more accessible. This is because reports from Commissioners to the media after the weekly statutory meetings of the Commission tended not to give the whole story.

Justice Singh told reporters yesterday that she would prefer that Ward sit in on the meetings, moving forward. She has committed to raising that matter with the Commissioners at the next statutory meeting.
Justice Singh also said that she hopes to have meetings with the media corps, like yesterday’s press conference, once per month.

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  • kamtanblog  On 11/10/2019 at 5:37 am

    Prior to elections “conspiracy theories”
    will become speculation !
    Bad publicity is sometimes better than
    willful “propaganda”…
    It may be too little too late for
    introduction but hopefully in future
    elections compulsory voting will be
    introduced. We are fighting that issue
    here in UK …hopefully it will happen
    in next election.
    Fines from those non voters used to
    find future elections.
    Why should taxpayers foot the bill !

    Be aware ..beware
    Learn from the mistakes of others

    Kamtan UK

  • shovid  On 11/10/2019 at 8:11 pm

    I suspect that there are about 2 Million Guyanese Worldwide…650000+ is Small Potatoes.

    • kamtanblog  On 11/10/2019 at 11:14 pm

      Maybe Guyana govt should open a
      register/data base for all guyanese born.
      Am sure the guesstimate of 2m may be
      exceeded. EG my four children and myself
      are all Guyana born but live in UK/Spain/Italy.
      My six gchildren all UK born.
      Am one of the “lost generations” of
      guyanese living elsewhere.
      That’s life
      Love the life you live
      Live the life you love


  • Trevor  On 11/12/2019 at 7:29 pm

    Chinese & Indian nationals coming here to buy up the land.

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