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––Opposition-aligned Election Commissioners
The Opposition-aligned Elections Commissioners, in a statement on Wednesday, said “a mechanism to provide for the cleansing of the Voters’ List is integral to any amendment to the Electoral Laws” of the country.
The three Elections Commissioners – Vincent Alexander, Charles Corbin and Desmond Trotman – in pronouncing on the proposed amendments to the Representation of the People Act, said base on their assessment, an internal investigation into the highly disputed 2020 General and Regional Elections must be conducted to certain the loopholes within the system before the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) can objectively offer any recommendation.
“GECOM is in no position to objectively contribute to the process of amending RoPA in the absence of an internal investigation of the 2020 elections to determine what are the manifested weaknesses of its system and operations,” the Commissioners said.
They submitted further that the “persistent demand” by stakeholders for the Voters’ List to be cleansed must also be addressed.
“In that regard, the Judgment in relation to House-to-House Registration should be clarified from the standpoint of its applicability to the voters` list as distinct from the Register of Registrants. In like manner, relatedly or separately, the relevance and application of Regulation 40 of the National Registration Act should be determined,” the Election Commissioners reasoned.
They said in any circumstance, a mechanism to provide for the cleansing of the Voters` List is critical.
“The mere fact that there is no mechanism to ensure that a registrant who dies overseas can be remove from the voters` list is sufficient reason to warrant such a mechanism. The determination of the way forward suggested at bullet 2 should also be integral to this determination,” the Commissioners added.
The main opposition – the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) – has long lobbied for a clean voters’ list ahead of any election.
The proposed amendments to the Representation of the People Act were circulated last November by the Attorney General’s Chamber.
Penaltiesfor electoral fraud ranging from $5M to $10M, and even life imprisonment are among the amendments being proposed.
According to the draft Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill 2021, which is currently in circulation for the purpose of consultation, the Chief Elections Officer (CEO) could be fined $10M and sentence to life imprisonment if he or she knowingly contravenes Section 83 by posting an electronic copy of a Statement of Poll (SOP) that is not a true reflection of the certified SOP delivered to him by a Returning Officer (RO).
Under that Section, the Government, through the Ministry of Legal Affairs, is also proposing that duly appointed candidates, counting agents and polling agents or alternate polling agents be given the opportunity by the Presiding Officers (PO) to verify or ascertain every count, examine ballots and recorded information at every stage of the process.
Failure to comply would result in an offence on the part of the Presiding Officer, who if found guilty, could be subjected to a fine of $10M and 10 years improvement
The Ministry of Legal Affairs is also proposing the introduction of “supernumerary returning officer” and “deputy supernumerary returning officer,” thereby extending the definition of who constitutes an “election officer.”
Importantly, it is also proposing the creation of “sub-districts” within Region Four (Demerara-Mahaica) under Section 6A (1), which will be managed and operated by the supernumerary returning officers.
The sub-districts being proposed are: East Bank Demerara, North Georgetown, South Georgetown and the East Coast Demerara. According to Section 6A (2), “Each of the polling sub-districts specified in subsection (1) shall be defined by such number of the total number of polling divisions which constitute district Region 4 under the National Assembly Elections (Constitution of Polling Districts) Order 1980, as may be determined by the Commission by Order.”
Under this new electoral system being proposed, the tabulation of the Statements of Poll (SOPs) in District Four will not be done at a single location as was done during the 2020 General and Regional Election but rather at different locations within the four sub-districts by the supernumerary returning officers.