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GECOM, political parties cited for EAB’s aborted field test

by Zena Henry

The Electoral Assistance Bureau (EAB) says that Guyanese have been deprived of added assurance regarding the controversial voters list now that the agency has aborted a limited test exercise that would have challenged the integrity of the roll.

With some two weeks left before General Elections, the testing activity would have served to ease the minds of those worried that a ‘bloated’ list of electors would leave space for devious activities.

The Guyana Election Commission (GECOM) said that since 2011, the preliminary list of electors has increased by some 75,000 names. The voters list contains the names of 570,000 eligible voters list.

EAB was supposed to seek out 1,200 persons among those names in bid to verify the authenticity of the list through statistical procedures. In a meeting with GECOM some three weeks ago, EAB requested from the agency the increased names in a particular format.Project Director Dmitri Nicholson told Demerara Waves that the agency did not receive the information on time and had to abandon the project.

In a public announcement, EAB reminded of its insistence that with the limited time available to polling day, it needed the support of the main contesting groups and GECOM for the test to be done quickly and with quality. “Unfortunately the needed information was not provided in sufficient time to permit the announced test to be completed. It is therefore with great regret that EAB announces the cancellation of its planned testing of the 2015 voters list.”

The observer said that the missed opportunity to independently test the voters list “deprives the electorate and political parties of added assurance regarding the level of integrity within this critical element of the electoral process.”

EAB thus noted that institutions that have discrepancies with the list should take it to GECOM with the relevant evidence. The organisation also reminded all parties that during the registration process their scrutineers would have been present verifying everyone who registered and thus called for all sides to observe all protocols for the integrity of the election process.

GECOM maintains that it cannot legally remove unwarranted names from the list which would include deceased persons and those who have migrated. This is deemed the source of the swell and EAB has advised that GECOM and the next Parliament commit to the challenge of removing unwanted names for a cleaner voters list. In the case of dead persons, GECOM first has to receive confirmation from the Registrar’s Office that a person has died.

EAB also suggests that GECOM should have cross checked finger print matches to ensure that no one fingerprint appeared on the list twice. With this, they can usefully make public the results of the  fingerprint matching exercise for 2015, it was noted.

Parties were encouraged that polling agents can prevent abuse of the voter’s list, but the onus is on them to train their people early enough and to the highest standard; covering100 percent of the polling stations to prevent potential impersonation, multiple voting or other electoral crimes.

The US Embassy here had promised US$300,000 between the Organisation of American States (OAS) and EAB to carry out observer functions during election.