Persons who don’t collect ID cards could still vote- GECOM Chair

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By Bibi Khatoon

The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) will this weekend begin publishing a total of 19,502 names and addresses of persons who have not uplifted their ID cards since 2008.

This number has been narrowed down with the removal of all persons who are dead based on monthly information shared with the Commission by the General Registrars Office.

According to the Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield, in 2008 alone, 12,079 persons did not uplift their ID cards. Speaking at a press conference on Friday at GECOM’s High Street Office, he noted that for 2018, a total number of 1,404 persons did not uplift their ID cards.

He is, however, unsure whether these persons voted in 2015 General elections or the 2016 and 2018 Local Government Elections.

“We don’t go back into the boxes post-elections. And for example, the boxes I have for 2015 is being petitioned so that is locked away…but it is clearly a move we can make,” Lowenfield said.

The publication, he said, will be done using funds allocated to GECOM for the publishing of information for the conduct of elections.

The persons will also be sent letters through the post office and will be given 21 days to uplift their ID cards, as a form of verification that they exist.

However, this will not hinder them from voting, according to Chairman of GECOM, Justice (ret’d) Claudette Singh, who at the press conference assured that anyone without their ID card will still be allowed to vote once they visit the polling stations on March 02, 2020 with another form of identification.

If the individual does not have a form of ID, a registration folio will be used to verify the elector’s particulars and his/her photograph.

“This is the procedure being utilized to cleanse the list… we just want to verify the existence of these people. They should come forward and say well ‘I’m alive’,” the Chairman said at her first meeting with the press since being appointed on July 29.

Even if they don’t uplift their ID cards, their names will appear on a supplemental list, Justice Singh said.

“If these people do not appear, the names will be taken off the OLE (Official List of Electors) and placed on a list which is supplemental. It will still be the OLE but a supplemental list to the OLE and if they’re to turn up on elections day, they will be allowed to vote.”

She added that: “It is not GECOM’s intention to disenfranchise anyone and this exercise is not a witch-hunting exercise as is being rumoured …it is just a verification process.”

GECOM Chairman said the other forms of verification are provided for in the National Registration Act amended in 2005.

She referred to the Chief Justice’s ruling on August 14, in a case filed by Chartered Accountant and Attorney-at-law Christopher Ram on July 22 challenging the House to House registration exercise –during which the CJ said GECOM can use other forms of verification to cleanse the voters’ list.

Asked why this method was not used previously, Justice Singh said it is added scrutiny in light of the truncated House to House Exercise which was being done to create a new National Register of Registrants.

“We are in unusual circumstances following the passing of the NCM (No-Confidence Motion) last year. Had circumstances been normal, what would have happened [is] the House to House would have gone its full course and that database would have been retired so then, the list would have been verified, you would have persons there who would have been verified from the House to House.

“…so you would have had an updated list so there would have been no cause to do further verification,” the Chairman noted.

The Chief Justice, Roxanne George, had also ruled on August 14 that the House to House exercise was not unlawful nor unconstitutional but given the short timeline for the holding of elections, the GECOM Chairman had called off the exercise at the end of August. The process was originally due to end in October.

Approximately 370,000 persons were registered during the House to House registration exercise. After cross-matching of fingerprints, there were 150,000 matches in the first tranche.

The Commission is awaiting the results of the second tranche.

While this much has been sorted thus far, the Commission is still considering how it will incorporate the House to House data in the National Register of Registrants.

The Commission is set to have its next weekly statutory meeting on Tuesday.

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