GUYANA: Elections: GECOM backs biometric system for voting

…to formally make proposal to Attorney General on May 19, 2022

 Commissioners at the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) are supporting the use of a biometric system to assist with transparency when it comes to voting at elections.

The representatives of both, the current Peoples Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) government as well as the Opposition, A Partnership for National Unity (APNU+AFC), have agreed that the use of the technological system would greatly help in preventing many inconsistencies raised during the voting process at elections.             

As such, the matter could be up for discussion when GECOM meets with Attorney General Anil Nandlall at his chambers today. The AG’s team is expected to meet with GECOM to discuss matters relating to the draft Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill and Regulations. Among the issues that the GECOM team wishes to highlight are those relating to the use of a biometric system, a comprehensive review of GECOM following the 2020 elections and possibly, the collating of elections laws into one comprehensive document.

Opposition Commissioner Vincent Alexander told the Kaieteur News that the biometric technology would assist in ensuring that all persons who cast a ballot during elections do not do so in the name of deceased persons, migrants and other absent individuals. He said that the matter would address the issue of the names of dead persons being on the voters list. Double voting and ghost voting have been contentious issues given the difficulty in removing the names of deceased persons whose deaths have not been registered. The claims of ghost voting were even more pronounced, especially by the Opposition party following the contentious 2020 elections.

The APNU+AFC had argued strongly that the voter’s list is bloated with the names of deceased persons as those unregistered deaths remained on the National Register of Registrants, from where the voter’s list is deduced. This situation causes irregularities when persons illegally access the identification cards of deceased persons and vote in their names. Alexander told the newspaper that the biometric system will be part of the suggestions being offered in relation to the election law reform. “Our proposal was not on the substance. It was more on the procedure, but I am pushing the biometric idea,” the Commissioner highlighted.

Additionally, PPP/C Commissioner Bibi Shadick also showed support for the use of the biometric system. In fact, Shadick said she had brought up the idea of using a biometric system more than a year ago. The idea, she said, has nonetheless been floating around since the chairmanship of Dr. Steve Surujbally, who left the GECOM in 2017. Shadick said that she had made it clear a long time ago that the folios used to identify voters on election day are “so small” that the idea was presented to load the information onto a laptop and each person’s finger would then be scanned so they could be identified before voting. This, Shadick continued, would also help in preventing any instances of double voting since the system would be integrated. She said the technology would be able to show if an individual would have voted anywhere else in the country and thus prevent them from doing so again.

“Of course, this system comes as a cost,” Shadick told the newspaper. She said that that the biometric system would require specialized programs and systems; and would have to be placed at various polling stations around the country. She added however, that Guyana could look to collaborate with its foreign partners, especially those countries that already have the biometric system implemented in their country. She said that the country could work with these nations to help guide Guyana within the specific direction. The biometric technology involves the use of person’s organic information such as finger prints or retina to identify them. The system would scan the person’s finger or other organic information and identify the person as who they say they are.

There is really no easy mechanism for removing the names of deceased persons from the National Register of Registrants if they were registered to vote but passed away and their death not registered as such. The High Court also ruled that the adjustment of names on the Register of Registrants cannot be done through house-to-house registration. The biometric system, it is said, would add transparency without disenfranchising any citizen.

Attorney General Anil Nandlall said that the government’s job right now is to present elections reform on the statutory level, rather than constitutionally. This is despite calls for a comprehensive reworking of the electoral process. The Electoral Reform Group (ERG) expressed their concern over the “narrow” way in which government was conducting the reform activity and its consultation process. They noted that the statutory changes to the RoPA were not enough to achieve complete electoral reform.

ERG, other civil society groups as well as the Opposition Commissioners, are calling for a full review of the controversial 2020 elections which lasted some five months and saw about five persons being charged for uttering false documents to the public. The 2020 election review the Opposition and civil society are saying would shed light on GECOM’s procedures and other areas of work. The results would lend significantly to the desired reform. Government had promised to look into the last election, but there has been no word on this matter. It is alleged that GECOM has somewhat abandoned the idea of an investigation given the ongoing registration exercise.


Alexander floats biometric system to address ghost voting – May 12, 2022 In “News”

GECOM hopes to have “comprehensive” report on reform election laws – May 9, 2022 In “News”

Civil society group believes probe into 2020 elections necessary for proper reform – May 15, 2022 In “News”

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  • WIC  On 05/20/2022 at 2:25 am

    Very interesting. I haven’t heard of such a voting system being used anywhere in the world, but perhaps it does exist. If I am understanding the proposal correctly, it means that even a blind man may be able to vote for himself by having his useless retina scanned. Very progressive idea guys; way to go.

  • theonly  On 05/20/2022 at 2:09 pm

    This would be a total waste of time and money, because the P P P will still find some way of cheating. ( drill and pump baby )

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