“The nonsense about ‘swing votes’”

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Ethnic voting is prevalent in Guyana and two weeks ago I said that East Indians are 39.8% of Guyana’s population, Africans 29.3%, mixed 19.9%, Amerindians 10.5% and other 0.5%. Voting in Guyana is not rooted in race but ethnicity and the mixed people are largely ethnic Africans and vote predominantly with the PNC. Traditionally, the Amerindians voted largely for the PPP, and the PPP and PNC usually split equally between themselves over 80% of the votes at national elections.
At the 2015 and 2020 general and regional elections (both of which the losing party claimed were rigged and lodged election petitions) officially the PNC and PPP received 50.30% and 49.19% and 47.34% and 50.69% of the votes respectively. For these years this gave them respectively 33/32 and 31/33 of the 65 available seats in the National Assembly. The marginality of the win was particularly evident in 2020, when the other 7 parties that participated in the elections received 9,096 or 2% of the valid votes and the PPP/C’s overall majority was some 6,320 votes which is less than the 7,082 normally required to win a seat in the National Assembly.

This scenario has led to a regular stream of opinion that the two large ethnic parties are winning and losing elections largely because they fail to properly mobilise their base and lose/win the support of the small number of swing voters. I have argued before that if this movement was actually taking place it would be an improvement on the existing situation, although in a deeply ethnically divided society such as Guyana it may do little end the existing ethnic alienation. However, this conceptualization usually takes place without regard to the massive electoral fraud that appears to be taking place.

During the 2020 elections process the chairperson of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) having requested and received reports from the relevant state officials about elections wrongdoing, concluded that these matters were of sufficient import to require serious consideration, but the commission was not equipped to perform legal-type cross examination of witnesses and so said that these concerns should be raised by way of elections petition! Later, the Chief Elections Officer (CEO) of the commission claimed that there were nationwide some 4,686 impersonations and other important irregularities. He claimed that in Region 1, 4,194 or 34. 6% of the ballots were tainted, i.e. associated with fraudulent voting. Elsewhere the figures are: Region 2, 19,913 or 74.8%; Region 3, 49,286 or 67.9 per cent, Region 4, 112,039 or 55.4%, Region 5, 16,737 or 50.5%, Region 6, 49,952 or 77.4%, Region 7, 6,763 or 70.5%, Region 9, 2,507 or 53.7%, Region 10, 3,873 or 17%.

The calculations may well have been incorrect, but as indicated below, there was nothing unusual about the assumptions or procedure used by the CEO to arrive at his conclusion, and it is nonsensical to attempt to comment meaningfully on the impact of swing/crossover votes when the winner’s majority was very small and the evidence suggests that a far greater number of votes that went to that winner may have been corrupted.

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For all manner of reasons, worldwide courts have been known to overturn elections observers’ declarations that elections were free and fair. For example, in 2013, international election observers, including delegations from the Commonwealth, the United Nations, the European Union and India, declared the elections in the Maldives free and fair. However, according to Reuters the supreme court annulled the first round poll citing, as in Guyana, confidential police reports claiming 5,623 ineligible voters had cast votes, including people who were dead or under-age or used fake identity cards voted. However, ‘The dissenting judges, including the chief justice, said there was no legal basis for the annulment, as the allegations were not properly corroborated, nor were they clearly outcome-determinative.’

For those not au fait with the notion of ‘tainted ballots’ and staying with elections disputes in the United States, in the 2003 case of Pabey v. Pastrick the Indiana (USA) Supreme Court ruled that the East Chicago mayoral primary had to be redone. The court concluded that a ‘deliberate series of actions occurred’ that perverted the absentee voting process and compromised the integrity and results of that election.’ Pease note that the dissenting opinion claimed that ‘the presence of corruption, even if widespread, is no basis to upset an election and nullify the votes of the electorate (only) if a majority of untainted votes supported the winning candidate’ (https://www.courtlistener.com/opinion/852882/pabey-v-pastrick/).

In February 2019, North Carolina’s 5 member bipartisan (Democratic/Republican) elections management authority, having been given evidence of ballot fraud, unanimously ordered a new election for a U.S. House of Representatives seat after officials claimed that corruption surrounding absentee ballots tainted the results of a 2018 vote. The chairperson of the board said, “the corruption” and “absolute mess” with absentee ballots had cast doubt on the entire contest. ‘It certainly was a tainted election … The people of North Carolina deserve a fair election.’ (PoliticsFebruary 21,2019 / 9:16 AM).
Importantly, the propaganda that what it takes to win elections in Guyana are swing votes serves the interest of those who want to counter the demand for a brand new elections list by insisting that there is nothing wrong with the current bloated list that cannot be rectified by the existing continuous registrations process. According to this view, parties have lost elections not because the existing extremely bloated elections list facilitated massive voter impersonations and other irregularities but because they have been unable to properly motivate their base and win swing/crossover votes!



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