GUYANA: Chief Elections Officer seeks correction of voters’ registers for LGE

 LGE = Local Government Election

– warns against fallout if APNU+AFC boycotts polls

Kaieteur News – Dec 06, 2022 News – Chief Elections Officer, Vishnu Persaud has written Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission, Claudette Singh urging that the electoral body gives consideration to the delaying of holding Local Government Elections to facilitate corrections to the registers of voters.

Persaud’s letter comes days after the APNU+AFC Coalition approached the court seeking several declarations and four orders intended to nullify the preliminary list of electors and give rise to a new register of voters, before Local Government Elections (LGE) are held. Persaud in his letter to the GECOM chair warned that as a major election stakeholder, the Coalition’s concerns should not be ignored and as such, he set out several proposals to cure the defects on the lists.   

In his letter, Persaud told Singh that whereas the Registers of Voters (RoVs) for all 80 Local Authority Areas (LAAs), have been extracted in accordance with the provision of Section 5(6) of the Elections Law (Amendment) Act, No. 15 of 2000, her attention should be drawn to the APNU+AFC  court action.

Vishnu Persaud

In this regard, Persaud underlined that the “APNU+AFC is a major parliamentary stakeholder in the conduct of elections in Guyana, in this case, overdue Local Government Elections. This Coalition is concerned that, notwithstanding the provision of Section 5(6) of the Elections Law (Amendment) Act, No. 15 of 2000, the current RoVs were not extracted in compliance with the provisions outlined in the Local Authority (Elections) Act, Cap. 28:03.”  The GECOM CEO said the main concern of the APNU+AFC, as has been repeatedly raised by Commissioner Charles Corbin at Statutory Meetings of the Commission, is that the electorate was denied the opportunity to scrutinize the RoVs, with specific reference to the constituency RoVs. More, Persaud said specifically, it appears that the APNU+AFC is concerned that members of the public were not given the opportunity to (i) claim entry in the respective constituency RoVs, providing they qualify for such inclusion based on residency, and (ii) object to the inclusion of electors in constituency RoVs who do not meet the residency requirement for such inclusion.

“One of the foremost standards that defines free and fair elections is that citizens are able to register to vote. In this regard, and in order for an election to be free and fair, all citizens who meet the eligibility requirements need to be able to register to vote, and equally to be given the opportunity, to object to persons who they have reason to believe do not meet the eligibility criteria for inclusion in the Lists of Electors, in this case, the RoVs,” the CEO said.  According to him, the APNU+AFC Coalition, as a major parliamentary stakeholder in the conduct of elections, has a large support base among the electorate. “In this regard, it would not be unreasonable to assume that the constituents of the Coalition would withhold their participation in the upcoming Local Government Elections i.e. something any electoral management body should guard against insofar as transparency and inclusivity as fundamental standards for democratic elections are concerned.”

Persaud clarified that the reference to transparency and inclusivity is about the electorate and political and other stakeholders being given the opportunity to scrutinize and make legally permissible interventions pertaining to the preparation of the RoVs before they are certified for use to conduct the Local Government Elections.

On a related matter, he said too it must be of the greatest importance and urgency that the Guyana Elections Commission is not seen, whether justifiably or by perception, to be unmindful of the concerns of a major political stakeholder, in this case, the APNU+AFC Coalition. “To do so would attract the condemnation that the Commission did not comply with the standards of transparency and inclusivity. This in itself, should it occur, would have deleterious effects on the character and reputation of the Commission, as it would on the outcome of the elections. In view of the foregoing, it is hereby proposed that the Commission approve the conduct of a 14-day exercise under Section 24A “Correction of Registers by Elections Commission”, for the said elections. This would not only guarantee transparency and inclusivity, but would address the specific concern of the APNU+AFC Coalition, but by extension engender participation of the Coalition’s support base in the Local Government Elections,” the CEO wrote.

GECOM- Claudette Singh

14 days of correction

Meanwhile, Persaud proposed that subject to the Commission’s approval, the following will be enabled during the Correction of Registers Exercise: – Claims for entry in the Register of Voters; Correction of the incorrect listing of particulars of any voter; application of change of name;  application for transfers from one local authority/constituency to another or from a non-local authority area to a local authority area; objections to incorrect listings in the Registers of Voters;  hearings to objections; verification of address is associated with claims for entry, transfers and objections made on the basis of incorrect listing.

Additionally, he said all corrections will be applied to the Registers subject to the approval of the Commission. “In order to facilitate the transactions under 4.2. above it will be necessary for the divisional/sub­ divisional Registers of Voters to be posted at two buildings within each division/Sub-division in each local authority area. This activity will take about seven (7) days to be completed.

“The transactions listed at 4.2. above would be made at the Offices of the Respective Returning Officers. Registration Staff from the respective Registration Areas will be placed at the relevant Offices of the Returning Officers to assist the Returning Officers in treating with the various transactions. The registration of any new person as an elector would require that the fingerprints be cross­ matched before his/her entry into the relevant Register is made,” Persaud noted.

He said it is acknowledged that the approval of this proposal would cause the conduct of Local Government elections to be further delayed. “However, it is humbly submitted that the value to be derived from the unimpeded involvement of all concerned at the level of all Local Authority Areas is of greater importance. This proposal is submitted in view of the vital need for the upcoming Local Government Elections to not only be free, fair and credible, but to be seen by all concerned as being free, fair and credible,” the CEO letter concluded.

The APNU+AFC has long expressed major concerns over the compilation of the Voters’ List on the basis that it is bloated with dead people and thousands of Guyanese that have migrated. Through her Attorney, Senior Counsel, Roysdale Forde, the Coalition’s Chief Scrutineer, Carol Joseph has asked the High Court inter alia, to declare that the Elections Commission acted unlawfully when it opted not to compile the Preliminary List of Voters for the Local Elections in accordance with the Local Authorities (Elections) Act as amended by Act No. 15 of 2015.

She is asking Court to rule that GECOM is required to act in accordance with Section 11 of the Local Authorities (Election) Act in compiling the Preliminary List of Voters, and further that it is legally required to prepare a Register of Voters for use at Elections for Local Authority Areas in accordance with Sections 12, 13, 14, 20, 22 and 23.

Joseph said failure to comply with the legislation would render the Register of Voters for Local Government Elections (LGE) null, void and of no legal effect. She is also asking the Court to declare that the Constitutional duty of the Elections Commission, as provided for in Article 162 of the Constitution to compile a Register of Voters imposes a duty to compile a reasonably accurate and credible Register of Voters.

The APNU+AFC Chief Scrutineer also wants “a declaration that the Register of Voters extracted pursuant to Section 5 (6) of the Election Laws Amendment Act by the Guyana Elections Commission for use at Local Government Elections is not reasonably accurate or credible, thereby making the same unconstitutional, unlawful, null, void and of no legal effect.”

Ms. Joseph is asking the Court to declare that Section 5 (6) of the Election Laws, (Amendment) Act consequent upon the judgment of the High Court in Ram versus Attorney General of Guyana is obsolete, unworkable and wholly ineffectual as a law for the peace, order and good governance, and that a List of Electors prepared for General and Regional Elections under Section 5 of the Elections Laws (Amendment) Act can no longer be prepared on the basis of Electors resident in Guyana. On behalf of his client, Forde asked the Court to issue an Order setting aside the Order issued by the Elections Commission for the purpose of extracting a List of Electors for Local Government Elections on the ground that it is ultra vires and unlawful. They are also seeking an order directing GECOM to compile a Register of Voters in accordance with Section 23 (3) of the Local Authorities (Elections) Act Cap 28:03 before conducting of any Local Government Elections in Guyana.

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