GECOM Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield on Wednesday morning delivered Statements of Poll (SoPs) and Statements of Recount (SoRs) of the March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections to Registrar of the Supreme Court, Sueanna Lovell. The delivery of the documents was in keeping with an order issued by the Chief Justice (ag), Roxane George, S.C. last Monday. Lowenfield was accompanied by GECOM Chairperson, Justice (ret’d), Claudette Singh at the Victoria Law Courts, Georgetown. Also present were GECOM Commissioners Sase Gunraj, Vincent Alexander and Desmond Trotman. With 2,339 SoPs and 2,339 SoRs to be lodged with the court, Lowenfield explained that the officials involved were “pushing” for the documents to be handed over by the end of the day on Wednesday.
Chief Justice Roxane George, S.C., in striking out one of two election petitions submitted on behalf of the political opposition, ruled last week Monday that the first petition, 88 of 2020, will be heard, but agreed that, ahead of that, the SoPs and SoRs must be submitted for ‘safekeeping.’ This was upon the request of attorneys-at-law Douglas Mendes and Kashir Khan, who brought to the attention of the court that the Representation of the Peoples Act allows for the Chief Elections Officer to destroy all election documents after a 12-month period would have elapsed. Justice (ret’d) Singh had previously informed the Guyana Chronicle that Lowenfield is the ‘custodian’ of all election documents; however, Section 19 of the National Assembly (Validity of Elections) Act empowers the judge in an election court to make an order for the CEO to hand those documents over to the court.
Election documents, particularly SoPs, were the subject of contention during events following the polls, as several requests by contesting parties and international organisations to view those documents were denied. Subsequent to the March 2, 2020 elections, in the same month, High Court Judge, Franklyn Holder had refused an application made to him for GECOM to produce the SoPs for District Four. Following a slew of legal challenges and international intervention, a national recount of all votes cast was executed and the figures showed that the PPP/C received 233,336 votes while the APNU+AFC Coalition got 217,920 votes.
In election petition 88 of 2020, petitioners Claudette Thorne and Heston Bostwick are asking the court to determine, among other things, questions regarding whether the elections had been lawfully conducted or whether the results had been, or might have been affected by any unlawful act or omission and, in consequence thereof, whether the seats in the National Assembly had been lawfully allocated. Justice George has since given Attorney-at-Law Roysdale Forde, who is representing the petitioners, until February 12 to file his submissions and the respondents, including the Attorney General, until March 19, to file submissions in response. The parties will return to court on April 7, 2021.