GECOM completes 65 of 2339 boxes at end of Day 2

…as Commissioners order daily tabulation of SoRs

The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) began day two of the National Recount of the votes cast at the March 2, polls amidst confusion and uncertainty regarding whether the tabulation of the Statements of Recount (SoR) generated from each of the completed boxes had in fact commenced, or whether the previous day’s attempt was a dry run involving six of the already completed SoRs.

PPP/C Tabulation Agent, Dr Frank Anthony

As day one came to an end, the Commission began inputting information into a spreadsheet to then be tabulated; and Public Relations Officer (PRO) Yolanda Ward told media operatives that Wednesday’s activity was not in fact a real tabulation process, but was rather a dry run that had been requested by party agents.

However, during the course of the day, numerous tabulation agents for parties contesting the March 2 polls denied that the exercise was a dry run, and claimed that the tabulation had been instigated

by the GECOM Tabulation Supervisor, contradicting Ward’s claims that the exercise was requested by party agents.
Peoples Progressive Party

GECOM Public Relations Officer Yolanda Ward

(PPP) Tabulation Agent Dr Frank Anthony told media operatives, “We are not aware of a dry run…We consider the process of tabulation as what needs to be done, and our understanding was this would have been done on a continuous basis; because, as they (figures) are generated, they would be counted and tabulated.”
By the end of that day, the tabulation process was overturned and amended by the Commissioners in an order that is not expected to be published in the Official Gazette.
Guyana Times understands that, at the beginning of the second day, the Tabulation Staff had been instructed by Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield not to restart the process, since it was not in keeping with the original Order that had been Gazetted by the Commission for the recount.
That order stipulates that the tabulation would begin only after the SoRs had been completed and inputted into the spreadsheet for an entire electoral district/region.
At this point, according to the original order, the entries would then have to be verified by the supervisor before the tabulation begins.
This did not obtain on Wednesday.

Commission’s decision
A Commission meeting on Thursday subsequently overturned the diktat, with the Commissioners deciding to have the tabulation done each day, beginning at 17:00h and lasting for an hour and a half. This means that the tabulation exercise formally commenced only on Thursday.
It was reported that during the course of Thursday, the counting teams managed to complete 40 more boxes, bringing the total count to 65 out of 2,339 to be completed. During the course of Thursday, the tabulation exercise also saw vehement objections to the manner with which the SoRs would be treated. Party representatives had, earlier in the day, told media operatives that GECOM was looking to take over the SoRs once completed, in order to add observations.
According to Dr Anthony, the tabulation agents were informed by the supervisor for the tabulation of the SoRs that, “They would want to alter the Statements of Recount that have already been done…”
He was adamant that each party had received a copy of the SoR, and he said, “Our job in the Tabulation Centre is: when GECOM gets all the Statements of Recount into the room, we would now go through and count up those statements.”
According to Dr Anthony, what was being proposed was that “those which have already been completed, that they now want to add…take these statements that have already been completed, take it back to some place called the Secretariat; and in the Secretariat, some person is going to add comments onto these things. And our position is: if you add comments on something that has already been authenticated and all of that, then these statements now would be erroneous; because we don’t have copies, and we don’t agree that you must now take it from the Tabulation Room and go and add comments.”
The bottle neck, according to Dr Anthony, “is totally unnecessary”. It created a situation that eventually led to the Commissioners overturning the original order for the manner in which the tabulation would be done.

65 ballot boxes
Meanwhile, GECOM Public Relations Officer Yolanda Ward, in providing a report on the day’s activity, conceded that the tabulation exercise did commence on Wednesday afternoon, “albeit very late.”
She told media operatives that the Commission met during the course of the day and took the decision that the tabulation process would be done every day between 17:00h and 18:30hrs.
“It’s a simultaneous process: one screen that will project the Statements of Recount, and another screen where there is an Excel file where the numbers will be plugged into,” she clarified.
She explained that an Observation Report is generated for every work station, and that the Commission decided that those reports would be presented during the tabulation process.”
She posited that as the process continues today, “we hope that the staff have picked up a rhythm, and once the agents can once again come early and come on time, we will be able to go through the necessary security checks and ensure that they commence on time at the respective work stations.”
According to Ward, 40 boxes had been completed during the course of Thursday, 15 more than had been completed on the first day.
She said, “All in all, today we had a very smooth process at the various stations. We started about 08:15hrs at the stations this morning, so I guess the fact that we would have started early gives us that time where we could have picked up the speed in terms of the number of boxes completed.”
Asked to pronounce on when the Commission would be in a position to say when it would revise its 25-day timeframe, the PRO indicated that this would not be possible at this time, since the Commission is yet to come up with an average time to complete a box, given the different factors that could affect the time take.
She, however, told media operatives, “I cannot say that the process is being dragged out because of queries being made. We are at a recount exercise, and like anything else, people will have queries; and so it is important that whatever those queries are, they are adequately addressed.”
According to the GECOM PRO, “We want to ensure that every person and every agent in the room is satisfied with whatever decisions are taken at a respective workstation…It therefore means that if an issue needs to be ventilated to ensure that it comes to a conclusion that’s agreed on by all, it must be done.”