25,000 persons risk being barred from voting if they don’t collect national ID cards

Last Updated on Sunday, 3 November 2019, 11:14 by Writer

Justice Claudette Singh, SC, CCH, taking the Oath of Office as GECOM chairperson before President David Granger (file photo).

The chairperson of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Claudette Singh on Tuesday ruled that more than 25,000 persons who have not collected their national identification (ID) cards will be given 21 days to do so failing which their names would be struck off the voters list and they would not be allowed to vote.

Opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP)-aligned elections commissioner, Sase Gunraj described the move as one of “the most egregious decisions” taken at Tuesday’s statutory meeting of the seven-member commission. “I am of the considered view that this is an unlawful decision because it imposes an additional requirement on persons to be allowed to vote, and for that reason and that reason alone, it can be considered unlawful,” he told reporters.

Pro-governing coalition elections commissioner Charles Corbin added that persons who have not collected their national ID cards, would be notified by newspapers and mailed notices to do so as a requirement. “Should they fail to respond within twenty-one days, then their names will not be extracted to be included in the RLE (Revised List of Electors) and the Official List of Electors,” he said. The cards, GECOM sources have said, have not been collected for more than 10 years now.

Corbin added that those persons’ names would “not be cancelled” from the National Register of Registrants.

No date has been set for the publication of the names.

Corbin said the GECOM chairperson decided against highlighting the names of other persons who are on the existing Preliminary List of Electors but did not register during the July-August house-to-house registration exercise.

As Chief Justice, Claudette Singh had scrapped the validity of the 1997 general elections, saying the use of voter ID cards had been unconstitutional. In Guyana, electors can vote without any form of identification as they are required to take an oath once their names are verified by polling agents as being in folios with their pictures, addresses, registration numbers and occupations.

Gunraj added that he and his two other pro-PPP elections commissioners, Robeson Benn and Bibi Shadick, were not aware how the more than 370,000 names collected during the July-August 2019 house-to-house registration would be used. “We raised the issue of the publication of the house-to-house data. The Chairman referred to a decision that she made in September about the use of the house-to-house data, that it will be published for public scrutiny and she is holding to that decision,” Gunraj said.

Commissioner Benn is already on record as saying that legal action was almost certain if GECOM decides to take the names of persons off the list if they do not collect their national ID cards.