Chief Justice throws out APNU Carol Smith-Joseph’s challenge to LGE voters’ list

…says application misconstrued, fails to prove GECOM breached law

Acting Chief Justice Roxanne George on Tuesday dismissed the case filed by A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) Chief Scrutineer Carol Smith-Joseph, challenging the voters list compiled by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM).

Carol Smith-Joseph’s attorney, Roysdale Forde, SC

Smith-Joseph had taken GECOM to court to challenge the compilation of the Voters’ List for Local Government Elections (LGE). She had contended that the process used violated the Local Authorities (Elections) Act, and deprived electors of the opportunity to object to names on the register of voters.
Joseph, through her Attorney Roysdale Forde S.C, had asked the court to declare that GECOM acted ultra vires and unlawfully in compiling the List of Voters for LGE; that the action of the Chief Elections Officer and/or the Commissioner of National Registration in extracting a List of Electors pursuant to GECOM’s order was similarly ultra vires and unlawful; that GECOM acted in dereliction of its duty under the relevant electoral laws; and that GECOM has a constitutional duty to ensure that registration of electors is conducted in accordance with the law. With LGE set for June 12, Smith-Joseph had also sought to have the extracted list of electors set aside.
Instead, Justice George described the Notice of Application (NOA)- which listed GECOM, the Chief Elections Officer, the Commissioner of Registration, and the Attorney General as respondents – as misconstrued and relying on faulty evidence.

Chief Justice (ag) Roxane George

The Chief Justice pointed out that she could not find any breaches of the law that occurred. In fact, the Chief Justice noted in her ruling that not a scintilla of evidence was provided by the applicant to argue that the register of voters is not credible. She therefore noted that there was nothing to prove that GECOM did not extract a credible list for LGE. Additionally, she made it clear that the court could not deal with the issue of biometrics, but this was rather a matter for Parliament.
Even the case law used in Smith-Joseph’s NOA was critiqued by the Chief Justice. In one instance, Justice George noted that the case of Ram vs Attorney General was incorrectly cited by the applicant. She also noted that even if the correct case of Ram vs Chief Election Officer of 2019 was used, this case would still be misapplied.
Describing the application as much ado about nothing, it was not lost on the Chief Justice that Joseph’s case seemed intended to call into question the voters list used in the 2020 General and Regional Elections.
While she made it clear that she would not give effect to the Chief Scrutineer’s attempts to malign the list used in the 2020 General and Regional Elections, the Chief Justice did, however, advise that the National Assembly take meaningful steps to harmonise the electoral laws.
In a brief interview after the ruling, Forde made it clear that they disagreed with the court’s decision, and that he would consult with his client on the next steps.

Carol Smith-Joseph’s attorney, Roysdale Forde, SC

Back in October 2022, Local Government and Regional Development Minister Nigel Dharamlall had set Monday, March 13, 2023 as the date for hosting the long-overdue local government polls in Guyana. This was the earliest date that GECOM indicated the elections could be held.
However, despite filing legal proceedings that could potentially disrupt the holding of these polls, the APNU+AFC Opposition has already participated in the exercise of submitting its symbol to GECOM, which it admitted in the court documents.
APNU is an active participant in LGE 2023, though it is only contesting 260 of the 610 constituencies, while outside of those 260 areas, groups and individuals are contesting in another 58 constituencies. This means that APNU and other groups or individuals are contesting in a total of 318 constituencies.
Following the April 17 Nomination Day, GECOM had approved the List of Candidates for political parties, individuals, or groups who are contesting the June 12 Local Government polls. GECOM has already announced that there will be no voting in 13 Local Authority Areas (LAAs) because there is no one to challenge the incumbent.
LGE, which are constitutionally due every two years, were last held in 2018. At the last LGE, in November of that year, the then People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Opposition had secured 52 of the 80 Local Authority Areas (LAAs). This followed the holding of the LGE in 2016, when the PPP/C had also claimed most of the LAAs. (G3)