The seven-member Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) is discussing the possibility of removing the names of at least 20,000 persons from the National Register of Registrants (NRR) because they have not uplifted their national identification (ID) cards over the years, and also ticking off the names of thousands of others who were previously registered as part of a heightened vigilance.
However, the opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) says if the commission by a majority vote decides to go ahead with doing so, the matter is likely to go to court. “Right now, the push is to let people not vote,” election commissioner, Bibi Shadick said in reference to two proposals that were floated by pro-governing coalition election commissioner, Charles Corbin.
Another pro-PPP elections commissioner, Robeson Benn did not rule out court action even if it possibly risks a further delay in the holding of general elections beyond March 2, 2020. “Of course, it has to be challenged in the court which would result in the removal of a valid registrant and the prevention of a person from the ability to go and vote, it should be challenged,” Benn told reporters.
However pro-coalition election commissioner, Vincent Alexander rejects suggestions that the removal of the names of persons from the NRR merely because they have not collected their national ID cards will potentially disenfranchise persons. He says rather the use of uncollected ID cards would be a method to object and remove the names of persons from the NRR once repeated efforts have been made to locate them.
“We are using the ID cards issue to determine the presence of our voters, their existence. It’s like an objection. So the issue is not the ID cards; the issue is that these persons since 2008 and beyond 2008 have not, in any way, presented themselves to be present, to be known, to be alive, to be existing, to be resident, and then calling them, writing to them, gives us an opportunity to make a determination in the context of like an objection as to where are they. Are they real people at this time?” Alexander explained.
But Shadick described this “as another push to de-register people because they didn’t go and collect their ID cards” and those persons could not be located. Shadick said the law was clear that people could be removed from the national register only if they are dead. “They are intent on disenfranchising a whole lot of people,” she said.
Alexander says the names of those persons who did not participate in the July-August, 2019 house-to-house registration will be ticked off as part of a higher level of vigilance against people voting in place of others. “All it means is that you create an awareness of people whose whereabouts are unknown and, therefore, trying to create a greater alertness at the polling station when people come to vote in those names because, as we have said, at the very inception, a bloated list provides the opportunity for multiple and substitute voting and so you need to be alert about the names which can be used for substitute voting,” he said.
Benn acknowledged that some of the 20,000 persons, who have not collected their national ID cards, have died or are overseas. But, he said if they come to Guyana during an elections, “they have a right to vote”.
Recently, GECOM was forced to withdraw an order that had required registered persons to turn up at offices countrywide with their registration records to prove their existence. That order was replaced with the customary claims and objections period.