GECOM on track for E-Day

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…received first batch of data sent for cross-matching

THE Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) is on track for elections on March 2, 2019 as plans such as the procurement of election materials and the preparation of polling stations and staff are falling into place.

This was the information relayed by Chief Elections Officer (CEO), Keith Lowenfield, and Chair of the Commission, Justice (Ret’d) Claudette Singh, at a news conference on Friday.
There, they updated that, having sent the 370,000 transactions from the house-to-house registration exercise to be cross-matched; the first batch of 179,000 has been received while the final batch should reach the commission very soon.

Of these 179,000 transactions there were 150,000 duplicates meaning that these persons are already present on the National Register of Registrants (NRR) while there were 29,082 new transactions. The names of these individuals have been up at GECOM’s various offices for public scrutiny and, although the claims period has ended, when the second batch is received, this will also be placed up for public scrutiny during the remaining objections period.

IT’S LEGAL
At the press conference, the chairman was able to defend the commission’s decision to utilise the house-to-house data during the claims and objections (C&O) period. She referenced the August 2019 decisions of Chief Justice (ag) Roxane George-Wiltshire in a case challenging the constitutionality of registration exercise in which she ruled that the Constitution and the Laws of Guyana provide for the conduct of house-to-house registration as a form of verification. “Going back to the Chief Justice’s decision where she spoke about verification of the List…[it was said that] we can verify the List even in conjunction with the house-to-house or separately,” the Chair said.

This house-to-house data, being lawful, the Chair stated that she decided that every entry from the data, following cross matching, would be posted for public scrutiny. Had the house-to-house exercise gone uninterrupted, the Chair stated that there would have been no need for the verification process. However, she noted that she cut short the exercise because of the ruling that GECOM had no legal authority to remove names from the National Register of Registrants Database. At the same time, the GECOM Chair stated that the commission is still deliberating on how the house-to-house data will ultimately be included in the Revised List of Electors (RLE).

NO DATE FOR NOMINATIONS DAY
When it comes to Nomination’s Day, this is still to be decided upon by the commission as the CEO said that while the Laws of Guyana state that it should h held not less than 32 days before elections, there are “Administrative elements that must be satisfied”.
These, he explained, which are tied to the procurement of ballots, statement of polls and tally sheets, could take the Commission beyond 32 days as they are being sourced from overseas service providers.

Nonetheless, he assured: “We have been in contact with the major parties and the new and the upcoming parties that have indicated the desire to participate in the process as parties by themselves and again, at the appropriate time, we’ll be inviting all these parties to be briefed long before Nomination Day exercises are ahead so that all parties and all contestants would have an opportunity to be informed and to be made aware of the legal processes required for Nomination’s Day.”

On elections day, Lowenfield said that there will be more or less 2,350 polling stations countrywide – susceptible to change based on the commission’s decisions on the use of private residences for polling stations. Meanwhile, training for polling day staff has also been completed with a total of 13,500 persons trained, who will be retrained at the appropriate time.