Opposition suggests 2nd field verification for missing ‘new’ registrants
With reports emerging that the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) will be including all potential new registrants on the Revised List of Electors (RLE), Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo is demanding answers.
Reports had suggested that all the registrants to be included would mean those that GECOM and party teams did not locate during the recent field verification. Jagdeo noted that this is an unusual approach and called on GECOM to clarify its position.
“We have not heard officially from GECOM. We saw a statement from [GECOM Commissioner] Vincent Alexander that all the House-to-House data would be used… we would find it very unusual that the Chair [retired Justice Claudette Singh] would vote to embark on a process of verifying the 16,000 names and then seek to include names that are unverified,” the Opposition Leader told the media on Monday. He added that the purpose of the verification process will be defeated if these unverified names are included on the final list.
“So we’re awaiting official declarations on the matter, because there seems to be some confusion around it… we found empty house lots etc. If you put them on the voters’ list too, that means you are putting a number of unverified people. I can give you their names, a number of people who don’t exist at all.”
Jagdeo pointed out that because of the Christmas season, some people may not have been at home during the verification exercise, adding that his party is willing to have those persons included on the Revised List of Electors (RLE), pending their verification.
“We found some people who were not at home. That’s what their families said to us. So if they include them on the revised list of electors, there could be a process of revisiting them before the OLE comes out. The revised voters’ list has to be published for 21 days. Then the OLE, by the time it comes out, they would have re-verified and either have them removed or remain,” he said.
These ‘new’ registrants were captured during the halted House-to-House (H2H) exercise that ran from July 20 to August 31. However, the Opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) has always contended that the H2H exercise was largely unsupervised and would produce flawed results.
Indeed, the party subsequently found that many of the persons listed as ‘new’ registrants are either dead or were previously registered. The concern that has been expressed is that this could be the gateway to fraudulent voting and election rigging.
It had previously been announced that over 6500 persons of the 16,863 ‘new’ registrants were not confirmed during the five-day field verification exercise which concluded on December 22. Figures released to the media the next day had shown that Region Four (Demerara-Mahaica) had the highest number of unconfirmed persons, which tallied to 3657.
According to GECOM, there were 16,863 ‘new’ registrants but only 10,329 were confirmed.
Opposition-nominated Commissioner Robeson Benn told this publication last week that field officers who conducted the verification exercise of “new registrants” captured during the scrapped H2H process have found empty lots at the addresses on record for those persons.
Some 370,000 registrations obtained during the scrapped $3 billion H2H exercise, which ran from July 20 to August and was objected to by the Opposition, were sent overseas to be cross-matched with the National Register of Registrants Database (NRRD) in order to filter out the duplicates.
However, it was recently reported that international digital security company, Gemalto, indicated that some 37,300 were new registrants who are eligible for voting, that is, they are above the age of 18. But an internal check conducted by GECOM showed that approximately 17,000 of those “new registrants” were already on the voters’ list and some even voted in the past.
Efforts to contact GECOM’s Public Relations Officer, Yolanda Ward, to clarify exactly what GECOM is doing with these new registrants and whether all will be included in the RLE, were futile.