OAS election observers recommends “comprehensive” voter registration system to deal with bloated voters list

Last Updated on Tuesday, 3 March 2020, 20:48 by Writer

Head of the OAS Observer Mission, Bruce Golding (centre) briefs the media about his group’s preliminary findings and recommendations.

The Organisation of American States (OAS) Election Observation Mission is recommending “comprehensive” reform of Guyana’s voter registration system and house-to-house registration soon after the March 2, 2020, general election.

The mission said house-to-house registration should be conducted at given periods. “Undertaking a House-to-House registration exercise at the earliest opportunity upon completion of the election and periodically thereafter,” states the Observer Mission’s preliminary report.

The OAS mission says voters, who are at least 18 years old, and who qualify to be placed on the voters’ list for the first time should be identified during the continuous registration process. “This would significantly reduce the numbers of persons in this category to be verified as part of any re-registration exercise leading up to an election,” the mission said.

The voters list for the 2020 General and Regional Elections contained 660,998 names, a number that is relatively high in relation to the estimated population of 785,000 persons.

The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) has told the OAS mission that it currently has no means of cleaning the list, save through the constitutional provisions for removal (a registered death, certified insanity or election offence) or through a claims and objections period.

In July 2019, GECOM commenced a House-to-House Registration process, in order to create a new National Register of Registrants Database (NRRDB) in preparation for the 2020 elections.

Diplomats and other observers at the OAS elections observer press briefing.

The process was halted in August 2019 after the Chief Justice of Guyana held that residency is not required for registration, and that the names of persons already on the list of registrants and electors, who were not captured during the house-to-house registration exercise, could not be removed except through the constitutional provisions for such removal in the National Registration Act. GECOM has acknowledged that in these circumstances, it will be challenged in reviewing the list.