“I ruled in the interest of transparency” for field verification of registrants – GECOM Chairman

Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 December 2019, 19:41 by Writer

The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Chairman, Claudette Singh on Wednesday defended her decision to vote in favour of field verification of so far 16,000 registrants before they are included in the National Register of Registrants (NRR).

“I ruled in the interest of transparency and because I would like a credible list…I would like all to have a level playing field that in the end no one can complain that GECOM did something which was just foisted on them without having the list of the new registrants fully verified so that is my reason in the interest of transparency,” she said.

Singh had previously cut short a house-to-house registration exercise based on a High Court ruling, but she on Monday believed that house-to-house registration and retiring the existing NRR is the best way to generate a credible list.

The GECOM Chairman said she wanted to eliminate possible problems about the integrity of the polls and so she ruled for the verification exercise, giving it a pass of 4-3. She noted that many deaths, especially in the riverine areas, are not certified and so the General Registrar’s Office has no data to submit to GECOM.

Pro-governing elections commissioner, Vincent Alexander has described the field exercise as “useless” while his three opposition-aligned election commissioners feel vindicated that verification is a must.

GECOM’s Information Technology (IT) Manager, Aneal Giddings said after the five-day field verification exercise is completed, the seven-member electoral body would have to decide on the names of persons that would be included in the national database of registrants. “We would have to take all of these numbers wholistically and provide them in a detailed form to the commission for them to approve the number that is to be added to the National Register of Registrants,” he told a news conference.

GECOM was Wednesday expected to meet with party scrutineers who would identify party representatives to work along with GECOM staff to conduct the field verification exercise from Thursday to next Monday.

Giddings said 365,000 names and biometric data were sent overseas to be cross-matched and that exercise showed duplicates totalling 305,265 from either the house-to-house or the NRR. The Information Technology Manager said 60,083 names were not included in the cross-matching report probably because they are new registrants. He said an analysis of the 60,083 names showed that about 17,000 of them should have been duplicates or names that are seemingly on the NRR.

Giddings says that means that 44,020 are possibly new registrants a number of whom are under 18 years and will not be part of the revised voters’ list as at the voting qualification date of 31st December, 2019.

That now leaves GECOM with 16,400 names to be verified over the next five days.

He noted that 100 or fewer duplicates are generated from claims and objections or continuous registration exercises and are investigated at GECOM’s headquarters or at the registration offices.

Meanwhile, GECOM Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield says 14 “very new” parties are among the 19 that have submitted symbols to GECOM.

The elections management authority estimates that there will be 2,351 polling stations countrywide for the March 2, 2020 general elections.