Law revision will address voter registration, remove dead people from list – AG
With proposed amendments to Guyana’s elections laws currently out for public review and contribution, Attorney General Anil Nandlall, SC, on Tuesday said his Chambers is working on additional changes which will specifically target voter registration.
Speaking during his Tuesday night ‘Issues in the News’ commentary aired on his Facebook page, the Attorney General explained that these additional revisions to the law will be keen to address the removal of dead people from the existing voters’ list.
“That should address the issue of zombie voters,” he said.
According to the Attorney General, because of the long-running challenge to how registration must be done, he thought it was fitting to clarify existing laws on registration so as to remove contradictions.
The AG said as it is right now, the law mandates a process of continuous registration but he acknowledged calls by the political opposition for house-to-house registration.
He gave a clear indication that the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) government intends to support the continuous registration process, noting that the rival position exists because of the lack of clarity in the law.
“These contradictions are in the law and we have to weed them out.
“We can’t throw away the database and start over. The system doesn’t permit that. We have a database and we have to build on it and cleanse it at periodic intervals,” the Attorney General said.
Nandlall said while the clarifications will be piloted through amendments that will also see a process for cleansing the voters’ list, there is nothing he can do to address the political rhetoric of dead voters.
“I can’t craft laws that say dead people cannot vote… you have to be wary of that type of political rhetoric,” he added.
The AG said the law is clear on who can vote at an election; it stipulates that you must be 18 years and older, a citizen of Guyana, and registered to vote.
It doesn’t make residency a criteria and Nandlall doesn’t seem inclined to change the law to include that.
There is an August 2019 judgment by Chief Justice (ag), Roxane George, in which she ruled that while House-to-House Registration is not unlawful and is constitutional and that the data garnered from that registration exercise must be merged with the existing National Register of Registrants Database (NRRDB).
The interpretation is that once a person is registered, there is no law that allows for the person’s name to be removed from the register, allowing for non-resident Guyanese to vote at elections once previously registered.
Nandlall said the amendments to the Representation of the People Act (ROPA), which can be passed with a simple majority by the government in the National Assembly, will generally address weaknesses, exploitation and abuse.
“The purpose of this is to strengthen the machinery; to make the democratic process more durable and more impenetrable; to make it modern and responsive and responsible. It will make officers employed in the process more accountable and their actions transparent,” he said.