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Op-Ed: The current voters list is fundamentally flawed and should be scrapped

by James McAllister

It is a fact! The voters’ list in Guyana is bloated by at least 30%. The names of over 180,000 dead, missing or non-existent people are included on the voters’ roll.

Of this number, a minimum of 40,000 are the names of dead people. National Census figures, the House-t0-House registration of 2008, and Guyana’s vital statistics published by the Bureau of Statistics are important tools for the attempt to unravel the mystery surrounding this voters’ list.

In 2008, GECOM’s House-to-House registration exercise documented a total of 430,000 persons. The 2012 Census recorded a population of 746,955 of which 61% or 455,640 were 18 years or older. Census figures from 1980, 1991, 2002 and 2012 were used as the data for a regression analysis to forecast the 2019 population as approximately 744,000. Assuming 39% of the estimated 2019 population is below 18, then approximately 453,840 are 18 years and over, and eligible to vote.

The latest report is that GECOM’s list now stands at 640,000. However, according to population figures, only 453,840 person should be eligible to be on the list. This means there is an excess of 186,000 names on the list. There are a few possible explanations for this, so let us examine them.

Is it possible that people who were under 18 became of age? Let us look at this. It has been 7 years since the last census, hence people who were between 11 and 18 years in 2012 would be 18 years and older today. We find from the census figures that 126,000 persons were between 11 and 18 years in 2012. Now, let us assume no death and 100% registration, and add 126,000 to the 455,640 who were already 18 years in 2012. This gives us 581,640, which is appropriately 58,000 less than GECOM’s list of 640,000. This is a major issue, both mathematically and chronologically.

Wait! We assumed no deaths, but the Bureau of Standards data show an average age-specific death rate for the 11+ years age group as approximately 10 per 1,000 of population. If we use 581,640 as the initial, but diminishing pool, from which 10 per 1000 person die each year, we get approximately 45,000 dead since 2012. This 45,000 must be removed from the initial 581,640 which represents the above mentioned 11+ years in 2012, who should now be 18+ in 2019. Therefore, 45,000 from 581,640 gives 536,640, and this is the pool from which GECOM could draw its list. However, as mentioned, GECOM’s list is 640,000, approximately 103,000 more than the available pool.

Where did these 103,000 persons come from? Are they fictitious people? Are they as a result of multiple registration. Are some of them dead who are still on the list? We have already established, using Bureau of Statistic age-specific death rate, that approximately 45,000 persons from the pool died since 2012. It is reported that GECOM removed an average of 2,300 names of dead persons from the list each year. This means that since 2012, approximately 16,000 names were removed from the list. Hence, the names of approximately 29,000 dead persons are still be coming on the list.

What about overseas based Guyanese? We established earlier that approximately 453,840 persons who are 18 years and older are living in Guyana. This is approximately 186,000 less than GECOM’s roll of 640,000. Could it be that these 186,000 persons are overseas-based Guyanese? If Bureau of Statistics age-specific death rate is applied to 186,000 we get approximately 12,000 persons dead overseas since 2012. GECOM has no means of removing these names. This number will increase to 27,000 by elections in 2025.

“There is general agreement that the credibility of an election comes under threat “as the margin of victory approaches the margin of error.” In other words, the closer an election is anticipated to be, the greater the need for accuracy of the voters’ roll.”

The margin of victory in the last two elections in Guyana was around 5,000 votes. This would suggest that efforts must be made to ensure the voters list is as accurate as possible. At the moment GECOM’s list has approximately 41,000 dead, and 186,000 names that could represent a combination of fictitious persons, multiple registration and some overseas-based persons.

GECOM’s list is flawed and must be scrapped. The possible dead is eight times the acceptable margin of error. This is compounded by a missing 186,000 that could  increase the margin of error by tens of thousands. There is no way the integrity of this list could be restored. It is too flawed.

Mr. James McAllister is former Member of Parliament and executive member of the People’s National Congress Reform political party.