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GECOM exploring ways to deal with bloating of voters’ list

Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield addressing a GECOM news conference. Seated (left to right) are GECOM’s Legal Officer, Juanita Barker; Deputy Chief Elections Officer, Vishnu Persaud and Chairman of GECOM, Dr. Steve Surujbally.

The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) is considering ways of preventing the voters list from being bloated with the names of dead persons and migrants, apart from conducting a new house-to-house registration in a few years from now.

GECOM Chairman, Dr. Steve Surujbally told a news conference that these include taking steps to use death announcements in the newspapers, radio and television as a starting point to remove the names of such persons from the National Register of Registrants and ultimately the voters list. ‘’I do not feel that I should have a list like some Caribbean countries- a population of a hundred and twelve thousand people and ninety-two thousand are on the list,” she said.

The laws do not provide for the easy removal of the names of deceased persons although they are known by relatives, neighbours and other persons as having passed away. “It would need a lot of change because you have to have a certificate saying the man dead,” said Surujbally.

He noted that the trend for fresh house-to-house registration is usually 10 years meaning that the next such process could be held in 2018. “The Commission would decide on that…” he said. “It has been raised. I do not think at this point in time there is an urgency to deal with that,” he said when asked if the Commission had discussed the holding of a new house-to-house registration.

The GECOM Chairman said political parties have been involved in crafting methodologies to erase the names of deceased persons.

Pending the publication of a final voters list for the May 11, 2015 general and regional elections, the number of eligible voters so far on the preliminary voters list is 567,125. The number of eligible voters in the November 2011 general and regional elections was 492,193.

As result of the latest round of continuous registration, there have been 3,200 new registrants and 3,000 requests for transfers. The current Claims and Objections period will end on February 22 to be followed by the posting up of the Revised List of Electors for another 21 days to give Guyanese a last chance to examine the roll.

Meanwhile, GECOM officials emphasized that scrutineers from all eligible political parties are involved in field work such as registration, claims and objections with the relevant commission staff.

Based on existing figures, GECOM plans to set up 2,260 polling stations. At least 12,000 people are being employed and trained to work on polling day. “We must have a reservoir of polling day staff” said Lowenfield, explaining that extra persons are recruited to substitute for those who decide not to work on the day of balloting.

On the matter of more than 38,000 uncollected national identification cards dating back to 2008, which are often used by voters, Deputy Chief Elections Officer, Vishnu Persaud said “all of them would not be voters; some of them will below voting age.”

GECOM officials said even if persons do not have a form of identification they would not be prevented from casting their ballots because there are folios containing pictures and bio-data of registrants at each polling station.