GECOM wants to remove over 20,000 names from voters list for failure to uplift ID cards
The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) is looking to remove the names of over 20,000 persons from the voters list who have not collected their Identification Cards dating back to 2008.
But Opposition nominated Commissioners are accusing GECOM of seeking to deregister persons given the fact that persons do not need their ID cards to vote as they can use any other form of identification such as a passport.
“Apparently these [Government nominated] Commissioners are afraid of persons going and vote so they’re trying the hardest they can to get as many persons as they can to not exercise their franchise,” Commissioner Bibi Shadick told the media shortly after the Commission’s statutory meeting on Tuesday.
Shadick said she will fight against this proposal since some persons are simply not uplifting their ID cards since they have no use for it and may have relocated from the location where they registered.
The matter was not put to a vote on Tuesday as one Commissioner was absent due to an emergency.
From all indications, it seems that GECOM Chairman Justice retired Claudette Singh will have to cast the deciding vote since the three Government nominated Commissioners support the proposal and the three Opposition nominated Commissioners are against it.
Shadick threatened to file a court action if the Commission votes to accept the proposal.
But Government nominated Commissioner, Vincent Alexander argued that the GECOM is using the ID card issue to determine the presence of the voters.
“Their whereabouts are unknown, we cannot be able to verify their existence…the issue is not the ID card, the issue is that these persons since 2008 and beyond have not presented themselves to be known, to be alive, to be existing, to be resident and the writing to them gives us the opportunity to make a determination in the context of an objection to say where are they,” Alexander told the media.
He explained that the issue is not whether these persons would have used another form of identification to vote at previous elections but the fact remains that they have not presented themselves to GECOM, in some cases, over a decade.
“They’ve been given the opportunity…we have also on two occasions sought to find these at the places where they were registered and by registered mail,” Alexander said.
Chief Justice (ag) Roxane George-Wiltshire on August 14 ruled persons’ names cannot be removed from the National Register of Registrants except by adhering to the provisions of the law.
Alexander argued that the National Registration Act provides other options.
Additionally, the Commission is looking to highlight the names of persons on the voters list who did not verify their information during the ongoing Claims and Objections exercise.
This move is in accordance with an order gazette on September 26 requiring every person on the Preliminary List of Electors to present themselves along with their ID cards for verification at GECOM offices countrywide during the exercise but later revoked it.
This process was aimed at ensuring persons who did not register during the controversial house to house exercise in July-August, update their information or be removed from the national register.
Shadick argued that the Commission is looking at a “backdoor” option to bring back the provision.
“Any presiding officer sees a name highlighted, he will say well this is somebody I shouldn’t allow to vote because them ain’t do something,” she said.
However, the Government nominated commissioner, said this process is to put polling day staff on alert to avoid substitute voting.
“All it means is that we’re creating an awareness of people whose whereabouts are unknown and therefore trying to create a greater alertness in the polling station when people come to vote because…a bloated list provides the opportunity for multiple and substitute voting,” he argued.
The Government has always argued that the list is bloated and needs to be cleansed.
There are 646, 625 names on the Preliminary List of Electors.
During the curtailed house to house registration, over 370,000 persons were registered and GECOM had also decided that this information will be available for Claims and Objections.