One of the groups contesting the University of Guyana Students’ Society (UGSS) elections scheduled to be held less than one week from now on Saturday rejected the use of Automatic Voter Machines (AVMs) because of an absence of voter education for the electorate.
The Revolutionaries Party (Revs) in a statement also called on the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) not to observe the use of the AVMs in light of the short notice about the use of the new voting system.
“We are further convinced that this time frame will not allow for our students to be properly and adequately advised, and that this new system will be without any proper test runs before the elections commence two days after the demonstrations at Turkeyen and Tain campuses.
We call on the Guyana Elections Commission, who has been extended an invitation by UG to observe the voting process at both campuses, to refuse same as students will not be sufficiently informed on this new feature, an egregious act which strikes at the heart of a democratic and transparent process,” said the Revs.
Following is the full text of a statement issued by the Revs.
The Revolutionaries Party (Revs) under the leadership of Glenfield Dennison notes several developments in the University of Guyana Students’ Society elections’ process that have become alarming, and of grave concern, the latest being the introduction of a new voting system – the automated voter machines (AVMs) as a pilot/case study – on the eve of Students’ Society election scheduled for October 1, 3 and 4, 2014.
The Revolutionaries Campaign received a correspondence from UG’s Assistant Registrar for Students’ Welfare Daniella King, who administers and supervises the UGSS elections, on the morning of Friday 26, 2014 notifying candidates of the change from the old voting process.
Later that evening we received an additional correspondence which stated, “Please refer to the attached document and be guided accordingly. Kindly bring this information to the attention of your student group members so that they understand are able to guide the student voters if necessary. Contact me if you have any queries. Additionally, on Tuesday 30, 2014 we will be conducting another training programme with the returning officers.” This pertained to the new system of voting.
We oppose this new measure on the basis that there has been no voter education program to date on this new voting system, and candidates and their campaigns also have not been briefed in any meaningful way on how this system operates and any shortcomings, if they exists. Revolutionaries rejects the new measure on the basis that in any democratic society voter education is a paramount feature of the entity conducting the elections and not left up to contending parties.
By way of a post on social media by UG’s Public Relations Department also on Friday we are advised that the AVM-based system will “allow for the casting, tabulation and generation of the statement of polls. The use of electoral technology is expected to improve the integrity of the vote count, allowing students to have more confidence in its legitimacy.”
And additionally, “The use of this new technology was made possible through the University partnering with the government of Canada, and the Canadian-based non-governmental organisation known as The DELIAN Project, to fund the use of the automated technology.”
We are not averse to the new system conceptually; however, the timing of its implementation is unacceptable. Note, UG communicated to candidates of a new deadline to withdraw their candidacy from the UGSS elections as Monday, September 22, 2014 at 12 noon. The notification came via email on September 17, 2014 without stating a reason for the change. On September 19, 2014 UG posted on its Facebook page that the change was to facilitate, “adequate time for the preparation (overseas) of the ballot paper.”
This is either an indication that UG meant to continue its normal sole paper ballot voting or knew since then that it meant to change the system but again failed to inform students.
We are further advised that, “The DELIAN team will be in Guyana from September 29, 2014. They are expected to give a demonstration of the AVMs on the same day, at 15:30 h in the Education Lecture Theatre, Turkeyen Campus.”
We are further convinced that this time frame will not allow for our students to be properly and adequately advised, and that this new system will be without any proper test runs before the elections commence two days after the demonstrations at Turkeyen and Tain campuses.
We call on the Guyana Elections Commission, who has been extended an invitation by UG to observe the voting process at both campuses, to refuse same as students will not be sufficiently informed on this new feature, an egregious act which strikes at the heart of a democratic and transparent process.
Further, this latest action of the University plays into a narrative of trampling on the rights and legitimate concerns of our student population. We were similarly concerned that there were not adequate and meaningful consultations on the recent adjustment of tuition fees and the new facilities fee – two eventualities that have caused much financial distress to our students.
Further on the UGSS elections, Revolutionaries have observed several features which we find troubling: There has been no events schedule as obtained in recent years. For instance, there use to be a ‘Meet the Candidates’ informal forum. This is yet to be announced or has been scrapped altogether without warning. Also, today, our campaign learnt that the Student’s Welfare Department will not be organizing the Presidential Debates scheduled for Monday 29, 2014 at both campuses. This debate is a crucial part of the UGSS election cycle; who will be organizing it remains a mystery.