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GECOM Chairman defends verification process for registrants who haven’t collected national ID cards

Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Claudette Singh says the 19,502 registrants, who have not collected their national identification cards, are being asked to prove they exist in keeping with the law.

Justice Singh says the National Registration Act is being used to ask those persons to prove their existence by presenting a birth certificate, valid Guyana passport, certificate of registration or adoption certificate.

She says this approach is being used to verify the voters’ list because GECOM was unable to carry out a full-fledged house-to-house registration exercise following the passage of the no-confidence motion (NCM) by the 65-seat National Assembly on December 21, 2018.

“You would be aware that we are in unusual circumstances on the passing of the NCM last year in 2018. Had circumstances been normal, what would have happened: the house-to-house would have run its full course and that database would have been retired so then, the list would have been verified. You would have had persons there who would have been verified from the house-to-house so you would have had an updated list so there would have been no cause to do further verification,” she told her first news conference.

The GECOM Chairman explains why she scrapped the house-to-house registration exercise after just one month, instead of allowing to run from July to September, 2019. “My reason was this: The Chief Justice clearly said GECOM had no legal authority to retire names from the NRRD – that is the National Register of Registrants of Database – and, as you all know, the purpose of the house-to-house would have been just that. That data from the house-to-house would have then formed the new database,” aid the retired Chief Justice.

The High Court ruled in August that house-to-house registration cannot be used to replace the existing national register of registrants, but the commission can use any other verification method.

GECOM says of the 19,502 uncollected identification cards, 12,079 date back to 2008.

Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield is expected to state in a newspaper notice that if those persons do not collect their cards by November 27, their names will be placed on a supplementary list, a decision that seemed to have been cautiously welcomed by Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo. “I think we may be able to move forward in relation to that issue without causing Guyanese to lose their franchise which is crucial to us,” he said.

Mr. Lowenfield is expected to say also in the notice this weekend that on elections day, registrants will be allowed to vote only if they verify their identification by producing a Guyana-issued birth certificate, a certificate of registration, a valid Guyana passport, a naturalisation certificate, or an adoption certificate.