…GECOM chair says laws empower CEO to correct any omission
By Svetlana Marshall
DISMISSING allegations that the Elections Secretariat has been tampering with the National Register of Registrants Data Base (NRRDB), Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Justice (Ret’d) Claudette Singh said the Commissioner of National Registration, Keith Lowenfield, has embarked on a process of addressing omissions on the Revised List of Electors (RLE) in keeping with the Laws of Guyana.
In a recent online publication, the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) alleged that “adjustments” were being made to data on the NRRDB using unverified information generated from the truncated House-to-House Registration exercise but Justice (Ret’d) Singh, during an exclusive interview with Guyana Chronicle, said the contention lacks merit.
It was explained that with the publication of the Revised List of Electors (RLE), it was recognised that a number of eligible electors whose addresses and other information were updated during the House-to-House exercise were not reflected on the RLE. The 2019 House-to-House Registration exercise was a legitimate process, according to the High Court.
The GECOM Chairman said, in keeping with the National Registration (Residents) Regulations, the Commissioner of National Registration embarked on an administrative process to ensure that electors are placed within their correct divisions for voting. “The Commissioner of National Registration has that power under the law to correct any omission,” Justice Singh underscored, while pointing out that provisions are made for such acts in the National Registration (Residents) Regulations, which form part of Chapter 19:08 National Registration Act.
According to Regulations 37, “If within the period of twenty-one days after he had certified the revised lists, the Commissioner is satisfied that any entry or omission in any list as revised pursuant to regulation 35 is incorrect through inadvertence in the course of such revision, he shall make or cause to be made the requisite correction to that list…”
Justice Singh explained that if the omissions are not addressed, it could result in electors being displaced and unable to vote at a polling station in their area. Such could result in confusion on Elections Day, the Elections Chairman warned.
“Once the Commissioner of Registration is satisfied that there is an omission in that list, he has a duty to correct it and this is to prevent disenfranchisement and confusion on Elections Day,” she underscored.
Russian-trained Economist, Patricia Anthony, is among the thousands of Guyanese who had registered in the 2019 House-to-House Registration and effect changes to their address. In the case of Anthony, like many others, her old address remains on the Revised List of Electors (RLE) much to her surprise and dissatisfaction.
“Being abroad engaged in studies for quite a few years meant I’ve had to watch Guyana’s development and social activities from a distance. I clearly remember eagerly watching and following 2015 election on social media. A few months after my return, the no-confidence motion threw the country in uproar and the wheels started turning for a sooner than anticipated elections. As a young professional who has never got the opportunity to vote, I was adamant to make my vote count. Hence I did everything on my part to ensure that I was on the list,” Anthony shared.
The 30-year-old economist explained that during the House-to-House Registration exercise, which ended in August, 2019, she changed her address. Originally from Linden, Region 10,
Anthony now works and lives in Georgetown, Region Four.
“Having sorted that out and getting registered, I thought I was on point to getting my finger inked come March 2020. One can only imagine my shock after checking the published list only to find my old information being generated. Had I not checked the list and turned up on Election Day at my district to vote, to be told that I’m not on the list there, would’ve been an ultimate disappointment,” Anthony told this newspaper.
Based on reports coming out of GECOM, at the time of the extraction of the Preliminary List of Electors (PLE) from the NRRDB, data from the House-to-House Registration exercise was not included due to the simple fact that they were sent abroad to be cross-matched for duplicates. The results from the cross-matching exercise returned after Claims and Objections concluded on November 11, 2019.
Subsequently, GECOM added the more than 16,000 new registrants, from the House-to-House Registration exercise, to the NRRDB and by extension the Revised List of Electors; however, evidence suggests that the NRRDB was not entirely updated to reflect changes made by some of the ‘old’ registrants, who had reregistered in 2019.
In an effort to ensure that persons like Anthony are not disenfranchised, the Commissioner of National Registration is updating the NRRDB, and, by extension the Revised List of Electors to reflect the data (particularly the new addresses) provided during the 2019-House-to-House Registration exercise, in accordance with Regulations 35 and 37 of the National Registration (Residents) Regulations.
The Revised List of Electors has been posted for public scrutiny and electors are urged to check and verify their information at locations in their respective areas or on the GECOM’s website. “If there has been any advertence on the part of GECOM, electors are advised to immediately visit the GECOM Registration Office to have the information updated accordingly,” GECOM Public Relations Officer, Yolanda Ward urged in a recent statement.
While noting that free, fair and transparent processes in the production of a credible list is the hallmark of credible elections, Ward assured the nation that GECOM will ensure that the name of every registered eligible elector is properly accounted for on the Official List of Electors.