Stakeholders urge recount be done within 2 weeks

…156 days “grossly unacceptable” – political parties

Highlighting that the nation has been hanging in a balance since the March 2 polls, the Guyana Budget and Policy Institute (GBPI) has proposed a plan which can see the countrywide recount of votes cast in the March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections completed in as little as 12 days.
Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield has since been tasked with reworking his 156 days national recount plan with an aim to reducing the timeframe.
The GBPI, a non-partisan and not-for-profit organisation that promotes evidence-based policies, has presented a plan which it says is efficient and will guarantee a transparent and credible process.
This plan was even recommended by some smaller political parties which wrote the Chair of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Justice (retd) Claudette Singh, expressing their displeasure at the CEO’s initial 156 days recount timeline.
The Liberty and Justice Party (LJP), in a joint correspondence with Change Guyana directed to the GECOM Chair, argued that Lowenfield’s initial plan is “utterly and grossly unacceptable”. Explaining that the country has been without “constitutional office bearers” in the Executive for over 16 months, these parties underscored the importance of a less time-consuming work plan.
“With due consideration of the dire need to be expeditious in concluding these elections, we are of the view that the plan presented by the Guyana Budget and Policy Institute (GBPI) is executable and would serve to see this country returning to a state of democratic and constitutional compliance in the shortest time possible,” the two parties stated.
The United Republican Party (URP), in a separate letter to the GECOM Chair, also recommended the plan presented by GBPI: “Our party executive has meet and we are endorsing the attached document prepared by the Guyana Policy and Budget Institute (GPBI) as a framework to accelerate the time line necessary to complete the recount,” the URP stated.

GBPI’s plan
Based on the Institute’s plan, it will take on average 1 hour and 5 minutes to recount each ballot box.
Further, for each 12-hour shift, a maximum of 3 hours can be used for administration (e.g. lunch breaks, shift change, etc.) and 9 hours for actual recounting of the ballots.
GBPI posited that it takes at most 20 seconds to validate each ballot, noting that this is a very liberal estimate, since the actual time taken on elections night was significantly less.
This involves the Presiding Officer calling out the vote on each ballot and showing it to all stakeholders for validation. The 20 seconds also include 5 seconds that is the average per ballot for other types of administrative processes that can slow the process, e.g. lunch break, short breaks, changing over to another shift, etc.
In providing an example, GBPI pointed out that in Region Three (Essequibo Islands-West Demerara), which has 73,432 valid votes, 6 teams are required to work on a 12-hour shift rotation system, 2 teams at a time, to complete the recount process in 8 days.
Region Four (Demerara-Mahaica), because it is the largest electoral district, would require a total of 12 teams to complete the recount exercise in 12 days.
The ballots for Region 4 would be split into four main groups (South Georgetown, North Georgetown, East Bank, and East Coast). Each group would have 3 teams assigned to it (Teams 4A, 4B, and 4C).
“Let’s take, for example, the South Georgetown group. Team 4A will start the recounting process and work for 12 hours. Team 4B will relieve Team 4A, and continue for 12 hours, and Team 4C will relieve Team 4B and continue for 12 hours, and the process continues,” the organisation explained.
“This shift system allows each team to work for 12 hours and rest for 24 hours without interrupting the process. What is more important is that, while the recount is happening for South Georgetown, it is also happening simultaneously for all the other groups in Region 4,” GBPI added.
Taking into consideration the threat of COVID-19, the Institute proposed the Arthur Chung Conference Centre be used as the venue for the recount, since it is large enough to accommodate the required number of people in a spacious setting.
When it comes to human resources, GBPI asserted, GECOM has enough personnel required for the job.
“Setting aside other administrative support staff and focusing only on the staff needed to undertake the national recount, a total of 74 staff are required for the 37 teams (each team having 2 staff members; 1 presiding officer and 1 clerk). That is a total of 37 presiding officers and 37 clerks. This is an insignificant amount of human resources, given GECOM’s personnel size,” the Institute stated.
In regard to live streaming the activity, the organisation contends, this should no longer be a matter of debate.
“The process has thus far been fraught with endless delays and qualms that have eroded public confidence and credibility. To ensure that the recount exercise is open, fair, transparent and credible, live coverage of the recount is necessary,” GBPI said.