—- 51 ballot boxes counted on Sunday
— GECOM makes new decisions on sequential counting, observation reports, cellphone use
A TOTAL of 208 ballot boxes have been counted as of Sunday, day five of the national recount process, with an additional 51 ballot boxes counted — the highest number thus far.
The process generally went smoothly yesterday as reported by Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Public Relations Officer (PRO) Yolanda Ward; GECOM Commissioners and representatives of various political parties.
The breakdown of ballot boxes counted by region is: Region One –11; Region Two – 10; Region Three — 17 and Region Four — 13. Ward catered for an additional box which was not included on Saturday, thus bringing the total to 208.
On Saturday, 48 ballot boxes were counted which means that three additional boxes have been added to this previous record. The current record of 51 also represents an increase of over 50 per cent when compared to the first count of 25 ballot boxes on day one.
Meanwhile 190 ballot boxes have thus far been tabulated for the General Elections and 180 for the Regional Elections, thereby narrowing the gap between the two by 10 ballot boxes.
Apart from the largely smooth process, coming out of the Arthur Chung Conference Centre (ACCC), Ward said that a series of new decisions have been made by the Commission relating to observation reports, the sequential counting of ballot boxes, cell phone use and more.
Henceforth, workstations will be allowed to choose a ballot box with a small number of ballots when the curfew period is approaching to make use of what little time may be left.
Previously, the Commission had decided that the last ballot box of any workstation would be allowed to be retrieved from a container no later than 17:00 hours, to ensure that the ballot count would be completed, in keeping with the established curfew of 19:00 hours.
The Commission has decided that it would be difficult to complete a ballot box within a two-hour timeframe, due to the number of ballots that may be in a box, and given that the recount was solely being conducted in sequential order.
“One of the decisions of the Commission coming out from today is that, while we will try to stick with that same five o’clock mark, we will narrow it down to ensure that we select a box that may have a small number of ballots, hence the sequential aspect, at that particular juncture, will not be applicable,” Ward said.
Another issue that the Commission deliberated on was the language choice on Observation Reports. Ward said some persons felt that the language used in some cases stated complaints/observations as factual rather that what they were —- allegations.
The decision will now be filtered down to all workstations, particularly GECOM staff, that those crafting the Observation Reports are to use words such as “alleged” or “allegation” especially when there is no evidence to substantiate the claim.
When it comes to the actual counting process, the Commission has also decided, that in the cases where it can be logically discerned where an elector intended to vote, even if he/she placed the ‘X’ on a party symbol, or near the box, the ballot will be counted as a vote for the intended party.
The PRO stated: “I’ve been seeing conflicting reports in the press about the need to go to the other envelopes such as those containing spoiled, valid and rejected ballots. So, hence, you now see why there is a critical reason why that is very important; you now have rejected ballots that now become valid. Once the intention is clear, that ballot is valid.”
Although the People’s Progressive Party/PPP/C has been vehemently arguing against the conduct of more than a simple numerical count, PPP/C Executive, Anil Nandlall, had reason to note, yesterday, that his party had gained some 10 additional votes based on ballots which were previously deemed spoiled.
“Some votes that were deemed spoilt votes, when you examined the ballots…they were PPP votes that were unlawfully deemed spoilt,” he said.
Added to this, GECOM has decided that the previously implemented cell phone use restriction at workstations in the Centre has been lifted. Ward said that, as it relates to the counting exercise, cell phone use will be permitted for the taking of photographs of ballot boxes when they arrive at workstations to prove that they are sealed and of the completed Statement of Recount (SOR), after it is signed by all necessary party representatives.
“No streaming of the process is permitted but persons are allowed to take those photographs during that exercise,” Ward clarified.
She also noted the Commission’s decision to allow three party agents per party to attend the tabulation process at the end of each day which remains from 16:00 to 18:30 hours.
The Commission has not yet deliberated on an extension of the 25-day timeframe set out for the recount, although it is expected a decision will be made this week.
Observation Reports made on SORs were read out loud as last agreed by the Commission, even as it is working to acquire personnel to provide sign language services in short order.
Meanwhile, today, the full Commission is expected to meet with representatives from some six small parties which have made such request to deliberate on issues they believe are affecting the recount process.