GECOM putting cart before the horse with fingerprint cross-matching – Jagdeo
Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has positioned that moving ahead with the proposed fingerprint cross-matching exercise is useless at this point in time since it would not yield any significant information while wasting valuable time.
This announcement was made during his weekly press conference on Friday, where it was clearly explained that the cross-referencing of registered fingerprints is done solely at the end of the Claims and Objections period to remove duplicates.
To move forward with such a step now, he noted, would not produce any pertinent data such as the names of new registrants but rather, only cases where duplicates are present. He insisted that the main attention should focus on new names to be added to the National Register of Registrants (NRR) before forging ahead.
“They want to now cross-match the fingerprints. At the end of the Claims and Objections, that is something that is necessary. You have to check all the fingerprints, cross-match to see that you don’t have duplicates. That will come at the end. Before then, they want to do that now too, and spend nearly (US) $350,000 of our money in a lengthy process that will only tell you if there are duplicate fingerprints, not who the new registrants are,” he informed.
Jagdeo also shared concerns about the time this process would take, further pushing elections to a later date. Adding to that, it is a waste of taxpayers’ money.
“This current fingerprint matching exercise is a waste of time to delay once again the elections because, at the end, you still have to cross-match when you finish the Claims and Objections. That’s the final test of the list…It’s a useless activity that will cost us a lot of money,” Jagdeo directed.
The House-to-House Registration exercise ended on August 31, as ordered by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Chairperson, retired Justice Claudette Singh. However, it was decided that persons registered during that time would be merged to the NRR. At that time, 370,000 were already registered.
Immediately after the decision was taken, however, the People’s Progressive Party nominated GECOM Commissioners were less than happy about the decision to merge the House-to-House Registration data. According to Commissioner Robeson Benn, this was not a product of their proposals.
“The difficulty we have is merging and verification of the data. It was not our proposal. We have said that any merging or verification of the data is wrong. It will take a long time and it will contaminate the NRR. It will result in duplicates. And having appeared as duplicates, each one of those will have to be investigated.”
Once again, Jagdeo contended that only the new registrants should be merged to the list since a complete combination of the database would take much longer. Merging all 370,000 persons would also present difficulty in eliminating the names of those who were already registered since their names would be listed twice. For this, he also questioned the accuracy of the software that would be used to eliminate duplicate names, since a simple error can result in anomalies on the final list.
“You don’t have to merge the entire database and take three months. First of all, prepare it because it is in registration forms…You can do it easily otherwise and in the Claims and Objections period, the 2000 new people could easily be registered. Not that they would be disenfranchised,” the Opposition Leader stated.
He added, “They want to create a new dataset and then merge the two to find out who the others are. We pointed out that even if you do a software that recognise duplicate names and eliminate them, if they make an error in the inputting or the enumeration of your name, then the computer would read that same person with an error in the name, because it is spelt differently as a new person, and merge that person over to the NRR.”
After last Tuesday’s statutory meeting, it was noted that a team from GECOM including the Deputy Chief Elections Officer, Roxanne Myers and the Information Technology Manager were in Jamaica, observing the process of cross-matching fingerprints.
Upon their return, Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield will prepare a plan, proposing the timeframe to merge the data with the register.
Notwithstanding these decisions, former Attorney General Anil Nandlall had also asserted that the registration data could not be used in the NRR.
“The decision says House-to-House will be terminated. And the second component of the decision is more disturbing. It is that the data will be merged into the database. So we are rewarding those who acted in defiance of the Constitution. The data generated by this exercise is deeply flawed,” Nandlall said.