GECOM’s additions to the lawful processes stipulated for a recount, as outlined in the Representation of the People’s Act, are going to impact future elections severely.
Had there been counting of ballots in a transparent manner and a credible system of verification and tabulation, not only would this election have been over, but some confidence in future elections would have been preserved.
As it is, Mr. Mingo’s fraud has been proven beyond reasonable doubt, but damage to the system of checks and balances utilised by GECOM is almost beyond salvage.
Let me explain: Each polling station has its Official List of Electors (OLE) who are eligible to vote. Copies are given to all GECOM polling day staff and any party’s agents present. There is no legal requirement to tick names, it is an accounting aid. Some Presiding Officers do periodic audits with all present to keep track of numbers, and some do not. In future elections, a PO may tick all the names or none, would this be enough evidence to invalidate the ballots in the box? What happens in the future when boxes are opened for a recount and there are no OLEs in the box? What happens when Ram N Balram is ticked instead of Ram M Balram (migrated or deceased)? This is the nonsense we have allowed to creep in and contaminate the process. Mischief-makers can choose from a wide menu of actions to sabotage and even vitiate an election with impunity.
In writing of best practices for a lawful election before March 2nd, I glossed over polling day activities by saying: “We will assume the following:
? Police protection is afforded each polling station all day (This is mandatory).
? Counting in the polling station is over.
? The statement of poll has been filled out by the GECOM presiding officer and has been signed by all polling agents present.”
I did so with the utmost confidence in the GECOM polling day procedures and staff. I stand by these assumptions, and can point to statements of support from every contesting party and observer mission, who all declared the polling day activity as credible and without fraud. The only fraud that occurred in Guyana’s General and Regional Elections in 2020 is Mr. Mingo’s use of fictitious figures, and his subsequent declaration of District 4 results based on those numbers.
Given the more outlandish claims of fraud emanating from APNU/AFC sources during the ongoing recount, the only system that would satisfy those ‘forces’ would be live-streamed HD video of all polling stations, coupled with biometric scanners as used by international immigration agencies, and a Certificate of Life issued on the spot by a medical professional before the elector can proceed into the polling station. Anything less would certainly be open to question. Heaven forbid a single Certificate of Life goes missing at any station, for that would mean fresh elections for sure. This absurdity is matched only by its impracticality.
Editor, the more excursions GECOM takes off of the lawful path prescribed for a recount, the further we will move from the position of trust and faith in the existing GECOM polling day systems. It may be useful for GECOM to remember the words of Chief Justice Desiree Bernard, who said, “The role of the Elections Commission and its staff is to take such action as appears necessary to ensure impartiality, fairness, and compliance with the provisions of the Constitution and any other acts of Parliament…Confidence in the electoral process must be restored.
“This is absolutely essential if we, as a nation, are to move forward and strive to heal the wounds that divide us. Let fairness pervade all of our actions at all times; no effort must be spared to assure everyone that the process is fair and impartial. Lingering doubts that hang like a Sword of Damocles over the head of the Commission must be removed.”
The allowance of the incorporation of audit-like activities in the ongoing recount is a perfect example of the said sword; it should be left in its sheath for everyone’s sake. There are reasons for laws governing recounts.