Home Letters Integrity of election workers in Guyana and New York
On Tuesday, Election Morning in New York, I visited several polling stations in Richmond Hill, Woodhaven, and Ozone Park, and observed dozens of Guyanese manning polling stations. There were long lines of voters, inclusive of Guyanese- Americans and other minorities.
I have never observed so much enthusiasm among minorities to vote. I was in Guyana last March for the elections. The behaviour of staff (professionalism and mannerism) was very different in these two countries. Guyanese-Americans are very professional in their conduct, whereas, in Guyana, many staff members are party or race partisan and are unprofessional.
Dozens of Indo-Guyanese and Indo-Trinidadians were performing duties as polling staff in the greater Richmond Hill area. Time did not allow for multiple visits to Afro-Guyanese neighbourhoods to determine whether they were working as polling staff, but I am sure Guyanese and other Caribbean people worked in the 2020 elections in Brooklyn. A few Afro-Guyanese were employed in the St. Albans area of Queens.
The staff at the polling stations in New York seemed much more aged (more senior citizens) than those in Guyana, behaved very professionally, and were non-partisan; meaning, they didn’t take political sides (for any party) as workers.
Guyanese and other poll workers in NY performed their duties with integrity and honesty, unlike in Guyana, where I observed polling workers were very partisan, especially in urban centres. Those Guyanese workers I observed in Greater Richmond Hill were not goading voters or seeking to disenfranchise anyone on account of political affiliation or race, as happened in Guyana. And I have serious doubts whether Guyanese New York staff would compromise their integrity and professionalism to benefit any candidate or party.
The consequences for a staff member who has violated the election code of conduct are very serious – suspension, hearing and/or immediate firing, and even jail time.
In past elections, when there were incidents, like campaign workers violating the rules of voting, and campaigning, or trying to intimidate staff, election workers reported them to their supervisors and/or to the Police. The Police (one is present at every polling station) acted instantly to rectify any issue and/or make arrests, quite unlike in Guyana. It is because of quick disciplinary actions and or arrests that there are minimal allegations of fraud in the US and in other countries like UK, Canada, Denmark, Australia, etc.
There is a no-nonsense attitude in the US and in other mature democracies on voting. People vote and move on, and don’t immerse themselves in attempts to fraudulently influence the outcome.
A few Guyanese voters (campaign staff really) were charged for electoral fraud in New York, and they faced the wrath of the elections commission and the court in that they were convicted, fined, and jailed by the court; and lost the right to vote – a case of natural justice. The course of justice was expedited, and not perverted, as often happened in Guyana.
Electoral fraud is a serious offence. It is akin to treason, because it seeks to undermine the system of choosing a government. In some countries, employees accused of electoral fraud are summarily jailed, if not executed pending an inquiry.
The charges of fraud against the GECOM accused are not mere allegations. Their actions in electoral fraud were publicly and transparently observed by the media, diplomatic corps, and international observers.
Guyana cannot afford to go into an election with the same electoral fraud accused running the affairs of GECOM; Lowenfield, Myers, Mingo, and others must be suspended. Everyone who was fingered as a participant in fraud (electoral and otherwise) must be removed from GECOM. They must be disciplined now, in order to commence the preparation for LGE 2021.
Guyana should follow the example of the US, where staff accused of fraud or wrongdoing at a polling station or at any job site are immediately removed from their position, pending an investigation, or criminal charges, or conviction. GECOM cannot afford to have mediocre performance or anyone involved in electoral fraud on staff. Unless disciplined, staff would continue to under-perform or misbehave in office, or engage in fraud. Examples must be made of them. They should have been terminated months ago, if not right after March 2, or after they were caught in the act of fraud.