Contrast in request for ballot recounts in US and Guyana

Dear Editor,

There is a sharp contrast in election officials’ response to a request for a ballot recount in the United States and Guyana. In the state of Kentucky, Senator Bernie Sanders requested a recount of the ballots in Democratic presidential primary held on May 17 in his contest against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the party’s Presidential nomination. The final unofficial result had Clinton winning the contest by 1911 votes. Sanders immediately asked for a recount of all the state’s ballots and it was granted right away in all of the polling places.

There have been requests for recounts in other states’ Democratic and Republican primaries which were held as part of the process of choosing the party’s nominee for the general elections on November 8. These requests were routinely granted in the interest of fair play and to quell rumours of fraud. At times, it took over a week to declare official results because of the closeness of some contests.

In Kentucky, the recount took over a week with Clinton winning by about the same margin as was initially unofficially declared.

The response of election officials in the US to requests for ballot recount differs with a similar request for a recount of ballots in Guyana in the May 2015 general elections.

The PPP requested a recount in the ballots in one region where the unofficial count had the PPP losing by one vote with some 50 so called “spoilt” votes almost all of which, it was reported, was overwhelmingly in favour of the PPP.

The acting US Ambassador (Charge) is reported to have said he was opposed to a recount. It could not be understood why the US Ambassador was opposed to a recounting of ballots since it is customary practice and the law in America for recounts when requested even if the margin is huge.

Gecom reversed its position on the PPP request for a recount after having initially consented to one.

In my doctoral studies of comparative politics, in elections around the globe (particularly US, Canada, UK), when outcomes are close, it is the general rule that recounts are automatically done even if not requested.

In Kentucky, as in all elections (local, state, national), there was an automatic recount because of the razor thin margin of Clinton’s victory.

Sanders then requested a final recount since the outcome was so close and it was granted; no expense was spared for the recount.

In India in elections earlier this year, there were recounts when the outcome involved a difference of thousands of ballots in several seats.

In Guyana, the difference was one ballot and Gecom refused to undertake a recount. The national difference was some 5000 votes and Gecom refused the recount. There should have been a recount of ballots in Guyana, especially that there were so many controversies and irregularities relating to the election.

The Ambassador of US, High Commissioners Canada, UK and other democratic countries should have pressured Gecom to have a final recount of the ballots.

If Gecom had nothing to hide it would have carried out a recount.

Separately, it cannot be understood why the court in Guyana is unable to address the election petition regarding irregularities when other countries dispose of election petitions within weeks. Guyana’s petition us going past a year.

Yours faithfully,

Vishnu Bisram