Electoral reform consultations, merits, demerits of arguments on whether voters’ list bloated or not

Dear Editor,
The analysis and viewpoints contained herein were conducted about two years ago during the period of the national elections’ saga, and which was published in sections of the media back then. This particular letter was published in response to businessman, Mr Stanley Ming, who came up with this argument backed by his own mathematical gymnastics that the voters’ list is bloated.
I find it necessary to republish this piece in light of recent positions from the leadership in certain spheres of the political spectrum who continue to propagate the view that the Government won an election on the basis of a bloated list. These electoral concerns were communicated to the high-level US officials who recently visited Guyana and had meetings on these issues with various stakeholders including both the Government and the political Opposition: wherein again, the view was put forward that the national recount shows that “460,352 ballots were cast, but there were 661,378 eligible voters.”
In my original letter two years ago in response to Mr Stanley Ming, Ming was questioning some 100,000 ballots that should be invalidated and further went on to argue that it is virtually impossible for the Official List of Electors (OLE) to have over 500,000 voters.
My response was as follows:
There are several important variables that Mr Ming did not take into consideration in his analysis as mentioned hereunder:
(i) The Representation of the People Act was amended to cater for cycles of Continuous Registration in 2005. The enactment of this amendment effectively replaced the need for “fresh” House-to-House (HTH) Registration exercise each time there is national elections. This is also the reason why GECOM has regional offices across the country. Consequently, the registration system became more efficient, and reduced substantially – the cost incurred for HTH. To this end, GECOM conducted an HTH exercise to create a new NRR Database following which the first cycle of Continuous Registration that began in 2006, recommenced in 2009. GECOM has so far conducted eight cycles of Continuous Registration up to 2016.
(ii) More so, it should be noted that it goes without saying that any HTH Registration exercise can actually disenfranchise thousands of persons. For example, in Guyana many persons work away from home in the mining and forestry sector within the interior regions who would not be found at home to be registered and the same applies to persons who might be out of the country as well. In addition, the law guarantees Guyanese who migrated to vote once they are in the country and have been registered. Therefore, Guyanese living abroad cannot be legally removed from the National Registrar of Registrants (NRR). This was precisely the ruling of the Chief Justice (ag) when the last HTH was aborted.
(iii) As it pertains to dead persons on the list, GECOM Public Relations Officer confirmed that there is a mechanism in place whereby the Guyana Post Office (GPO) sends a monthly list of persons who died which is then used to remove those persons from the NRR. It is in fact ludicrous to posit HTH is needed each time to sanitise the NRR or OLE from dead persons when people die every day. So, there will always be deceased persons on the list. What is needed is an efficient mechanism to remove such persons within the parameters of the law, and which GECOM already confirmed is in place.
(iv) The population of Guyanese living abroad is by far greater than the population living in Guyana and, therefore, one cannot base the number of persons registered to vote relative to the population in Guyana alone. Overseas-based Guyanese who are already registered and who can register whenever they visit Guyana ought to be taken into consideration in such analysis as well.
(v) If one were to examine the two recent population census of 2002 and 2012, respectively, one would observe that from 2002 to 2012 persons in the age group of 15-19 increased by 18,000 or 27 per cent. In 2012, the population within the age groups 10-14 was 83,139 and 15-19 was 84,798. With this in mind, it therefore means that for the 2015 national and regional elections the age group 15-19 would became eligible voters and thus would have been added to the list; and, the age group 10-14 in 2012 which was 83,139 would have also become eligible voters in the 2020 elections thus added to this list as well. This means in the 2015 and 2020 elections cycle, over 160,000 new voters would have been added to the OLE.
(vi) Another important variable that need to be taken into consideration is: reasonable deductions can be made wherein from 2015 to present, many Guyanese returned home largely owing developments in the emerging oil and gas sector. In fact, in all fairness to the Government, the current Administration implemented a number of reasonably attractive policies to attract Guyanese from the diaspora to return home such as duty-free concessions.
(vii) A reasonable inference can be made when one examines the arrival and departure data from the international airport for the period 2013 – 2018 (available on the BOS website). During this period, the records shows that 1,644,957 persons arrived in Guyana and 1,638,867 persons departed, giving rise to a difference of 6090 persons who did not depart. Hence, it can be deduced with reasonable certainty that of these 6000 people, a large percentage of this represents remigrants. This excludes 2019 figures which may well show an increase in persons who did not depart, thus implying it is possible that thousands of Guyanese returned home since 2015 to date.
In the final analysis, Ming’s assertion and equally, other proponents of this view ignored completely all of the aforementioned pragmatic variables from their analysis and an important legal factuality. With the number of persons from the age of 14 since the last census in 2012 which increased evidently by over 100,000, coupled with Guyanese who returned home since 2015 (which is also factual), and the fact that Guyanese living abroad who are registered cannot be removed from the NRR – substantiate the argument that the OLE and NRR cannot be bloated by any standard.
One of the limitations of this analysis, however, is the data to confirm how many persons were added to the NRR during the eight cycles of Continued Registration. This information to ascertain the number of persons, which I am sure is in the possession of GECOM, would have helped to strengthen this analysis.
Also, one ought to consider with the massive housing development across the country over the years from 2008-2015 – the dispensation of the regional population would obviously change and it is this that would account for the regional increases. The fact that the overall population remained relatively unchanged from 2002 to 2012, it is reasonable to deduce that this explains the regional increases while other regions would have shown a decline proportionately.
In view of the above, it is also safe to conclude that Mr Ming’s analysis is egregiously flawed and which seeks to give legitimacy to an unfounded and absurd notion that is without merit.

Yours faithfully,
JC Bhagwandin